Real or fake? Sourcing and marketing of non-prescribed benzodiazepines amongst two samples of people who regularly use illicit drugs in Australia
There is concern around non-prescribed benzodiazepine use, particularly with the increasing detection of counterfeit products containing high-risk novel compounds.
This study aimed to investigate how and which non-prescribed benzodiazepines are being sourced; forms, appearance and packaging; and awareness of risks associated with non-prescribed benzodiazepines.
Data were collected from a sample of Australians who inject drugs or use ecstasy and/or other illicit stimulants on a monthly or more frequent basis, and who reported past 6-month use of non-prescribed benzodiazepines.
The study found that among participants who injected drugs, 71% reported that their last non-prescribed benzodiazepines were diverted from a known/trusted prescription, compared to 59% of participants who used ecstasy/other stimulants.
Across both samples, the majority reported last obtaining substances sold/marketed as diazepam or alprazolam. Participants sourcing via non-diverted means were twice as likely to obtain alprazolam. Known sourcing of novel compounds was rare. Amongst participants who used ecstasy/other stimulants, 36% reported confidence in the content/dose of non-prescribed benzodiazepines even when the source is unknown.
Most participants obtained substances sold as classic/registered benzodiazepines, mostly via diverted prescriptions, with a substantial minority potentially unaware of counterfeits circulating.
While diverted use undeniably presents risks, tightening of prescriptions in Australia could inadvertently lead to a greater supply of novel benzodiazepines as seen internationally, reinforcing prioritisation of demand and harm reduction strategies.
Read the full article here