Scotland in midst of fake Valium epidemic

Dangerous fake Valium pills are flooding Scotland, with five deaths in one day in Glasgow and growing concerns the black market is not being addressed.

The counterfeit pills are designed to look like anti-anxiety drug Valium (diazepam) but drug experts say the fakes can turn users' lips and tongues blue and are increasing the risk of overdose.

Experts in many Scottish cities, such as Glasgow and Dundee, have expressed concern over the drugs, with health leads claiming that parts of Scotland are in the midst of a fake Valium epidemic, which is putting people's lives at risk.

A number of deaths have already been linked the counterfeits, although many lab results are yet to confirm. Last month in Glasgow, five deaths were recorded in one day, which has been referred to as "Black Wednesday", while nine people died over a two-week period in June in Ayrshire. Experts fear the number of deaths across the country could be in the hundreds.

Valium can be highly addictive, and many users will often mix it with other drugs, which can make it more deadly. The fake Valium is believed to be coming from Pakistan, India or China, and sold incredibly cheaply via the internet.

An investigation by Scotland’s Daily Record Newspaper, which spoke to a number of victims' families, noted how widespread the problem seemed to be, with several family members noting they knew of a number of similar tragedies.

The abuse of Valium in Scotland is not a new thing, being one of the most abused substances in the country alongside heroin and alcohol, and there have been many examples over the years of overdoses linked to its use. But the presence of the counterfeits – dubbed 'fake blues' – is an extra cause for concern because it substantially increases the risks of drug taking.

The fake Valium, which has high levels of blue food dye, is believed to contain substances that are slower to act than the legit drug, causing users to take higher doses, quickly when they think the drug is not working. This is leading to overdoses.

Some toxicology reports conclude the drugs tested contained no diazepam at all, others are thought to contain the stronger benzodiazepine etizolam. However, the situation is compounded by the fact that many users will mix Valium (both legit and fake) with other drugs like heroin, meaning toxicology results can be inconclusive and the fakes are not picked up in official statistics.

Drug workers and families claim authorities are not doing enough to alert potential users and address the problem.

"The fake Valium would appear to be out of control right now but the Scottish Government and Police Scotland aren’t saying much about it," Inverclyde drugs counsellor Michael Sturrock told the Daily Record. "There’s a generation of drug users taking these pills, which could contain anything. If there is one death through dodgy ecstasy it's all over the papers. But with these drugs there is virtually nothing. It is being kept invisible and that’s pretty scandalous."

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