Deadly Fake Benzodiazepines Gain Popularity During Covid-19 Lockdown - Rehab Guide
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Deadly Fake Benzodiazepines Gain Popularity During Covid-19 Lockdown

Why Fake Benzodiazepines Became Popular During Lockdown

COVID-19 may have caused a rise in fake benzodiazepines as well as worsening mental health during lockdown, according to new information from the NHS. Understandably, the lockdown caused numerous people to suffer from mental health. Symptoms such as stress, anxiety, depression, isolation and insomnia have become commonplace for many.

Even those with no previous medical history of mental health issues have experienced the emotional, financial, social, occupational and interpersonal impact that the coronavirus pandemic has brought worldwide.

With GP surgeries operating at reduced capacity and hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, more people have turned to the dark web, smartphone apps and street dealers in search of a solution to the way they feel.

What is even more concerning is the number of counterfeit controlled drugs currently available in the UK and Ireland. These ‘fake benzos’ have been labelled extremely toxic, potent and deadly.

We urge anyone who has developed a problem with fake benzodiazepines to seek urgent help. Our addiction treatment experts are here for you to listen to your individual stories and to help you access the best professional addiction treatment available near you.

Public Health England issues rare alert to healthcare providers over fake benzodiazepines

Deadly Fake Benzodiazepines

As a result of the availability of these pills and the tragic deaths resulting from them, Public Health England issued a rare alert to healthcare professionals warning them of the complications and urging them to remain alert and report any new cases.

You can read the full PHE alert statement on these counterfeit benzodiazepines here.

The exact source of these drugs is still unknown. Street dealers were obtaining them in bulk from dark web providers and thought to be manufacturing them also.

Fake temazepam, alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (valium) are of particular concern in the UK. Their strength and potency are abnormally high and have caused at least 12 deaths to date.

Dealers are even going to the extremes of making the pills look more legitimate by packaging them in blister strips and pill bottles with dosages on.

 What are Blue Fake Benzos?

PHE advised in their statement to healthcare providers that some of the drugs may be marked with the following brands: DAN 5620, T-20, TEM 20, Bensedin and MSJ.

Since the release of the alert,  further cases of people suffering adverse effects from these counterfeit controlled prescription drugs are being investigated.

More cases are expected as these drugs are still very much in circulation and easy to obtain from street dealers, whether that be through face-to-face purchases or through tech apps on smartphones.

Deadly Fake Benzodiazepines

The blue fake benzodiazepine pills have been the cause of many deaths and hospital admissions in England and Wales.

The counterfeit benzodiazepines come in a variety of colours, the drugs of particular concern are dyed with blue food colouring which can leave a blue stain on the user’s mouth.

The effects of fake Xanax and diazepam

Counterfeit Xanax and diazepam can vary in strength depending on the ingredients. There have been reports of the pills being up to 30 times stronger than their legitimate prescription equivalents.

Effects of the fake super-strength benzodiazepines include:

  • Severe drowsiness
  • Sleepiness
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired coordination and speech
  • Inability to move
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Slowed and shallow breathing
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

In addition to the immediate dangers taking these pills brings, taking them over a prolonged period of time and continuously ( 3 to 5 days, depending on ingredients) can also result in drug dependence and addiction. Stopping them suddenly can result in severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Fake Xanax Containing Fentanyl and Rat Poison for Sale in Ireland

In Ireland, police have found fake Xanax and other benzodiazepines laced with fentanyl and rat poison readily available on the streets.

The drug Ksalol (known as Castles) is being sold for two euros per pill.

Ksalol pills

Counterfeit Ksalol tablets have been found to contain Fentanyl, and some also contain rat poison. These deadly high-strength pills have been responsible for a number of ICU admissions across the country.

Fentanyl is a controlled synthetic heavyweight opioid, usually only used in hospital environments and to treat end-of-life patients with severe pain. Fentanyl is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and up to 50 times stronger than heroin. This drug can easily be fatal to someone with a low opiate tolerance.

Toxicology reports further concluded that the Ksalol pill’s potency is far stronger than their equivalent prescription legitimate counterparts.

Users of Ksalol and Xanax are known to be mostly teenagers and heroin addicts. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, there has been a shortage of heroin available worldwide. This has caused heroin addicts to seek out alternatives. The content of each pill can vary tremendously, and this has been the cause of many overdoses.

What is Ksalol?

Ksalol is a brand name for alprazolam, which is also sold under the name Xanax. It is a prescription-only medication in most countries, but it is commonly bought on the street. However, what is actually in ksalol bought illegally is variable.

Difference Between Real and Fake Ksalol

The only way to guarantee Ksalol or other benzos are genuine is to get a prescription and buy from a reputable pharmacy. People buying on the streets can try looking out for branding, marks and, in particular, scores made on genuine pills that do not match the ones they have bought. If your pills do not look like those sold in a pharmacy, there is a much higher risk that they are mixed with other dangerous ingredients.

Scotland’s ministers push for a ban on the sale of pill pressers

Scotland’s ministers are pushing for a ban on the sale of pill-pressing machines in an attempt to curb the number of deaths resulting from fake benzodiazepines.

Pill-pressing machines that can be purchased online for as little as £40 are being blamed for the surge in deaths.

Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, is also experiencing a spike in fatal overdoses linked to cheap drugs. These counterfeit benzodiazepines are being mass-produced by Scottish dealers in possession of pill presses.

The drugs that are suspected of being the cause of most of the deaths and overdoses in Scotland are called ‘vallies’ or ‘blues’ and are of extremely high potency.

The dangers of mixing fake benzodiazepines with alcohol and drugs

Benzodiazepine-type drugs depress the central nervous system, slowing down the way it operates and interfering with the brain’s communication with the body.

Mixing any benzodiazepine with another CNS depressant drug is extremely dangerous, even more so when the drugs are counterfeit, and their strength and content are unknown to the user.

Mixing benzodiazepines with any of the following substances can prove instantly fatal:

  • Alcohol
  • Opiates and opioids (codeine, tramadol, morphine, heroin, fentanyl, methadone etc.)
  • Other benzodiazepines (temazepam, lorazepam, diazepam, nitrazepam, alprazolam)
  • Gabapentanoids (neurontin, gabapentin, pregabalin)
  • Z – list drugs – sleeping tablets (zopiclone, zimovane)

All of these drugs slow down activity in the brain, and when abused or mixed together, they can cause respiratory depression, respiratory arrest, coma and death.

Help for addiction to fake benzodiazepines

If you or a loved one have developed a problem with these drugs, it is vital that help is sought without delay. Addiction to these pills can prove fatal. If you have a dependence on them, stopping them suddenly without medical help can also be life-threatening.

Many who source prescribed pills from the dark web or street dealers fear that they will get into trouble with the law if they ask for help. This is definitely not the case.

We understand that fear and shame can hold back someone who needs help from seeking it. However, asking for the right addiction help could well be life-saving. It is important to understand that addiction never gets better on its own and that untreated drug addiction can often be fatal.

Rehab Guide provides professional CQC-registered treatment and detoxification for all manner of substances, including purchased prescription medications.

Our professionals, counsellors and therapists will do all they can to help you make a full recovery. You can find out more by calling our 24/7 helpline and speaking in confidence to one of our addiction treatment experts.

Help is available, and recovery is possible!

Contact us on 02072052845


  1. PHE Pdf CAS alert review on fake benzodiazepines :
  2. The Irish Express
  3. The Times


Author 'John


Trained in addictionology in the Johnson Model, and specializing in substance abuse for individual and couple counselling. John's personal experience has given him a wealth of insights, which he integrates into practice. His extensive training has allowed him to gain expertise in individual and group counselling, concurrent disorders, case management, executing treatment plans and relapse prevention. He started this free helpline as a result of a life change and to help others get sober and live a life free from drugs and alcohol. John covers a variety of topics relating to addiction and recovery in his articles.


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