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  1. ITV Report

Home Secretary vows to prevent spread of deadly drug Fentanyl in UK

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

The Home Secretary has pledged to tackle the "terrible blight" of the drug Fentanyl before it causes a deadly crisis like that seen across the Atlantic.

Amber Rudd told ITV News that the Government's new drug strategy will look at what can be done to stop the spread of Fentanyl in the UK.

Fentanyl is a type of pain medication generally administered by doctors in the form of a patch or lollipop.

It is one of the strongest opiate drugs on the market and is much more powerful than morphine and heroin, with many people becoming addicted.

One Fentanyl user told ITV News that he became addicted after "three hits" and now he needs it "every couple of hours".

The opioid crisis in the United States is claiming lives at an alarming rate after emerging "very suddenly and very unexpectedly", Ambassador William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, previously told ITV News.

Around 52,000 deaths in the US were attributed to opioid use in 2015.

Singing superstar Prince died after an accidental overdose when he self-administered painkiller Fentanyl in April 2016.

Fentanyl is far more powerful than heroin. Credit: AP

Between December 2016 and July 2017, 60 drug-related deaths in the UK are known to have been linked to Fentanyl or one of its analogues

Ms Rudd said UK authorities are in contact with colleagues in the US and Canada to try to learn from the crisis there.

She said it was important to educate young people about the "devastating" effects Fentanyl can have.

"We know of the damage that it’s caused in the US and Canada and the terrible loss of life we’ve seen around it," the Home Secretary told ITV News.

"In the UK we’ve just launched a new drug strategy and we’re going to look in that about what else we can do to stop the spread of Fentanyl in the UK.

"We’re going to make sure that we learn from what’s gone on in the US and Canada and we are in regular contact with our opposite numbers on making sure that we can do just that – to stop the usage, to inform young people about the devastating effect that it can have."

Last month, the UK was warned of the potential for a crisis like that being experienced in the US.

Mr Brownfield, who works at the US State Department, told ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham that Fentanyl could easily cross the Atlantic "in a device as small as a business sized envelope, and carry a thousand doses".

Mr Brownfield said: "Our experience suggests that Fentanyl moves very, very, quickly.

"Once criminal trafficking organisations figure it out, and determine both how low cost and how easy it is to transport, and how they are able to develop a market for it, it can move from a non-issue to a crisis in the shortest possible time."

Ian Blackburn, a long-time addict, told ITV News that he has never known anything like his addiction to Fentanyl.

The opioid has killed his friends and almost killed his wife, but he said that does not deter him. Instead, it encourages him to find a more dangerous dose.

"You want to get as close to dead as possible, that's the whole point behind it," Mr Blackburn said. "To kill pain. Period."

He said he needs to take Fentanyl "every couple of hours" because of his addiction.

"No ifs ands or buts, you’re going to find it and you’re going to get money to get it, no matter what," Mr Blackburn said.

"There's no stopping it, once it has you...three days is what it takes. If you do it three days in a row, it's forever."

  • What is the US opioids crisis?

Opioids first came to prominence in the late 90s and early 2000s when US pharmaceutical firms reacted to demand for stronger faster acting pain relief drugs and lobbied to persuade doctors to prescribe synthetic forms of heroin for pain relief.

Because many people first became exposed to opioids after being prescribed by their doctor, that means those hooked on the drug are not stereotypical addicts, many are middle class professionals.

The issue is that when prescriptions ran out, those who had become addicted to the drug turned to the streets to pick up cheaper and dangerous illegal substitutes and this created a black market.