An epilepsy drug is being misused as a substitute for illegal drugs, according to research.
Researchers said they have found instances of young people from the UK and other countries buying phenazepam over the internet.
Although it is legal to purchase phenazepam online, they are concerned that taking the drug, which was developed in the 1970s for the treatment of epilepsy, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, insomnia and anxiety, could become a problem when misused by young people.
In a letter to the British Medical Journal, the researchers said they have identified nine cases in the UK since January in which post-mortem blood samples contained phenazepam.
And although it is not known if the drug is directly responsible for any deaths, they warned that it can be addictive and that mixing its use with other drugs such as heroin “increases the risk of drug interaction”.
Phenazepam is prescription-only in several former Soviet Bloc countries, but is not controlled in the UK, most of Europe and the US.
- Maskell P, et al. Phenazepam is currently being misused in the UK. British Medical Journal 2011; Advance online publication