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Shocking figures show a 30 per cent rise in people being admitted to emergency rooms in the Lothians after overdosing on the deadly drug, which can be bought from some websites for £1 a pill.
The number of patients admitted to A&E after taking the pill shot up from 243 in 2019/2020 to 349 in 2020/2021, according to information obtained by a freedom of information request (FOI).
But the numbers of people who overdosed on the pill, also known as ‘blues’ could be even higher, the health board said.
It’s not yet confirmed how many died from overdose in the last year. But latest available figures revealed the drug is responsible for more deaths in Lothians than heroin.
Following the latest figures doctors have warned mixing illegally sourced “street benzos” poses serious risk of overdose including potential heart or breathing failure.
It has also sparked fresh calls for community drugs checks and safe consumption rooms.
One of the biggest dangers of the drug – a sedative prescribed by doctors for sleeping troubles and anxiety – is that fakes are prevalent on the streets.
In recent years there has been a massive explosion of use of "street valium", which can be much stronger than prescribed tablets. And its often mixed with other drugs.
Addicts have painted a dire picture of a growing pandemic with the streets of the capital awash with the tablets.
Several websites, which appear on mainstream search engines, sell illicit benzos, such as etizolam, for as little as £1 a pill - as well as claiming to ship to all UK addresses. 100 can be bought for £60, or less.
Scotland-wide drug-related deaths involving benzos have risen sharply in the last five years, from fewer than 200 deaths per year prior to 2016 to nearly 1,000 in 2020.
Benzos were involved in 66 per cent of all drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2020, largely due to consumption of ‘street’ benzos such as etizolam, which rocketed from 58 in 2015 to 879 in 2020. ‘
Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said: “There has been a very concerning increase in the number of people admitted to A&E due to benzodiazepine.
“It’s a clear example of the drug crisis we are facing across Scotland.
“The Scottish Conservatives have secured additional funding for rehabilitation services in Scotland and are bringing forward a bill to enshrine the right to recovery into Scots Law.”
Emma Cranshaw, chief executive of Crew 2000 said: “We are 100 per cent behind the call for developing, funding and expanding evidence-based harm reduction including supporting community drug checking. And this shows need for supporting medically supervised facilities like drug consumption rooms.”
A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Alcohol and Drugs Partnership said: “Edinburgh Alcohol and Drugs Partnership share the concern about rising harm being caused by benzodiazepine use. We want to highlight the dangers of benzodiazepine use and to encourage people to access our services if they are concerned about their own or about another person’s use. Recent additional funding is helping us expand our services which include reaching out to those who are at the highest risk or who have recently had a non-fatal overdose.”