Coming to a street near YOU? Warning that Chinese-made ‘Frankenstein’ drug 1,000 times stronger than morphine will trigger terrifying zombieland scenes engulfing opioid-ravaged US cities

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Terrifying zombieland scenes plaguing US-cities could be coming to British soon as Chinese-made ‘Frankenstein’ opioids start to flood our streets.

That’s according to a former drug dealer turned pastor and addiction advocate.

Mick Fleming, 58, who runs charity Church on the Street, said it is already seeing an increase in deaths related to nitazenes.

The synthetic super-strength opioids are similar to fentanyl, which has ravaged parts of the US, leading to addicts strewn across the streets or staggering around in a drugged-up haze in cities like New York, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and Portland. 

But nitazenes, manufactured in illicit Chinese labs and smuggled to Europe through established criminal routes, are far stronger. 

Synthetic opioid users can remain mobile but in a warped mental state, giving the so-called ‘zombielands’ their name. This man, believed to have taken drugs, was pictured in San Francisco last year 

Several US cities are caught in the grasp of opioid addiction, Pictured here users both taking drugs and apparently pass out in a doorway in Portland, Oregon

Several US cities are caught in the grasp of opioid addiction, Pictured here users both taking drugs and apparently pass out in a doorway in Portland, Oregon

The drug (pictured) was first detected in the UK from a sample of white powder found in the back of a taxi in Wakefield in April 2021. Available in powder, tablet and liquid form, they can be injected, swallowed, placed under the tongue, snorted and vaped

The drug (pictured) was first detected in the UK from a sample of white powder found in the back of a taxi in Wakefield in April 2021. Available in powder, tablet and liquid form, they can be injected, swallowed, placed under the tongue, snorted and vaped

Pastor Mick Fleming, 58, who runs the charity Church on the Street said they already seeing a spike in deaths related to a new drug called nitazenes

Pastor Mick Fleming, 58, who runs the charity Church on the Street said they already seeing a spike in deaths related to a new drug called nitazenes

Studies suggest they are up to 40 times more potent than fentanyl and 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. 

Nitazenes are often mixed in with other illicit substances like heroin to provide a more powerful kick for users. 

Mixing them this way also allows dealers to stretch their supplies and get users hooked more easily, providing a cruel and profitable cycle of repeat customers for dealers. 

Mr Fleming said his charity has already seen eight opiate-related deaths in 2024. For comparison, it usually sees three in a regular year.

Blaming the situation on nitazenes, he told The Mirror: ‘We don’t have any correct figures yet but we know it is horrendous.

What are nitazenes?

Nitazenes are a synthetic opioid made in clandestine Chinese labs.

They have been blamed for fuelling an ‘unusual’ increase in overdoses and deaths over the past few months.

They are mixed into heroin and has also been detected in oxycodone pills and Xanax powders, according to charities.

Nitazenes were originally developed as painkillers by Swiss pharma company Ciba in the 1950s but they never reached the market.

Available in powder, tablet and liquid form, they can be injected, swallowed, placed under the tongue, snorted and vaped.

The drugs trigger feelings of pain relief, euphoria, relaxation and sleepiness. But they can also lead to sweating, itching and nausea.

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‘We’re seeing hardcore drug users overdose and die and that never happens because their bodies are tolerant and they know how to use. 

‘They don’t normally die. So when they start dropping dead you know there is something in the gear, and that’s what is happening.’

But Mr Fleming warned there could be more deaths among casual or occasional drug users as nitazenes become increasingly added to dealers’ supplies.

Nitazenes are sometimes also sold as oxycodone pills or Xanax powders.

As such, addicts don’t always know they are consuming these drugs until they suffer a health emergency or become addicted to the powerful additional kick it provides. 

Nitazenes usage has already been linked to at least 54 deaths in the UK over the last six months, sparking a warning across the NHS.

There are fears the total could be higher with dozens of deaths awaiting further toxicological analysis. 

Last month ministers classified 14 types of nitazenes as Class A drugs, putting them on the same enforcement level as cocaine and ecstasy.

Nitazenes were originally developed in the 50s by a Swiss drug firm trying to create new painkillers. But they never reached the market because of their high potential for overdose. 

They have been nicknamed ‘Frankenstein’ opioids because they are so powerful.

America’s crisis with synthetic opioids has led to nightmarish zombieland scenes where addicts stagger around or lie collapsed in a fentanyl-induced haze in the open streets.

Users sit, or stand, folded in half on needle-littered street, using drugs in public as shanty like communities of addicts gather together. 

At the peak of the crisis some American cities even announced they had ran out of space in morgues due to the frequency of overdoses.  

Nitazenes were first detected in the UK from a sample of white powder found in the back of a taxi in Wakefield in April 2021.

Available in powder, tablet and liquid form, they can be injected, swallowed, placed under the tongue, snorted and vaped.

Synthetic opioid usage has become so common place that in some places in the US people use them in public. Pictured a man taking drugs in New Haven, Connecticut

Synthetic opioid usage has become so common place that in some places in the US people use them in public. Pictured a man taking drugs in New Haven, Connecticut

Synthetic super-strength opioids like fentanyl and now nitazenes have been blamed for creating 'zombieland' scenes in several major US cities. Pictured, passed out fentanyl users on the streets of Sacramento, California

Synthetic super-strength opioids like fentanyl and now nitazenes have been blamed for creating ‘zombieland’ scenes in several major US cities. Pictured, passed out fentanyl users on the streets of Sacramento, California

Fentanyl is estimated to kill 1,500 Americans on week on average. Pictured a man taking drugs in Philadelphia

Fentanyl is estimated to kill 1,500 Americans on week on average. Pictured a man taking drugs in Philadelphia

Users of synthetic opioids often lie in the streets lost in the throes of substance use. Pictured: a man suspected of being under the influence of drugs in Seattle

Users of synthetic opioids often lie in the streets lost in the throes of substance use. Pictured: a man suspected of being under the influence of drugs in Seattle  

Some users lose all capacity for movement and lie in the street at risk of exposure, robbery and violence. There are concerns such scenes could come to the UK. Pictured a man passed out  in New Orleans, Louisiana during the opioid crisis

Some users lose all capacity for movement and lie in the street at risk of exposure, robbery and violence. There are concerns such scenes could come to the UK. Pictured a man passed out  in New Orleans, Louisiana during the opioid crisis

They have since been found in what users thought were the black market versions of the anti-anxiety drug diazepam and even cannabis vape liquid.

Nitazenes trigger feelings of pain relief, euphoria, relaxation and sleepiness. But they can also lead to hallucinations, irregular heartbeat and nausea.

The drugs mimic the effects of natural opioids — such as morphine — and are often cut with these drugs, creating a deadly cocktail.

The National Crime Agency believes nitazenes are often produced in illicit labs in China with supplies then enter Britain by ‘post’. 

In July, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) issued a national patient safety alert regarding nitazenes after a spike in overdoses. 

OHID said that testing suggested nitazenes were the ‘common cause’ behind the spike.

Nitazenes, smuggled into Britain via typical criminal routes, are mixed into heroin due to being so cheap and addictive. Sometimes they are sold as oxycodone pills or Xanax powders. As such, addicts don’t always know they are consuming the substances, which can be up to 40 times more potent than fentanyl

As the substance is often concealed as something else, there is currently little data about the true prevalence of nitazenes in the UK.

But in October, a police raid on a ‘sophisticated factory’ in Waltham Forest recovered approximately 150,000 nitazene tablets, the largest-ever recovered stash of synthetic opioids. Eleven people were arrested.

The OHID notes that naloxone — the antidote to opioid overdoses — works against nitazenes.

But it has to be delivered ‘rapidly’ as the drug is more likely to trigger respiratory arrest because it is so powerful.

Research suggests patients who take too much nitazenes typically need two doses of naloxone to recover, compared with fentanyl users only needing one.

Experts have also previously told MailOnline that it is ‘too late’ for most, before they realise they have taken nitazenes.

Mr Fleming is calling for more places to carry naloxone to help drug users survive a potential overdose. 

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