University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent neuropharmacology
Early online date10 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jan 2020


Background: NPS belonging to the benzodiazepine (BZD) class, e.g., ‘legal/designer BZDs’/‘research chemicals’, have recently emerged on the drug (mainly online/virtual) market.

Objective: Whilst certain NPS belonging to the BZD class possess pharmacological profiles similar to controlled pharmaceutical BZDs, clinical and pharmacological profiles of current emerging BZDs are still not well-described. Therefore, there is a need to increase clinicians’/public health knowledge/awareness, to incentive harm reduction strategies.

Method: A comprehensive overview was carried out by using the EMCDDA/EDND database regularly monitored by our research team, by specifically looking at the ‘new BZDs’ so far notified. Furthermore, given the limitation of peer-reviewed data published so far, a nonparticipant multilingual qualitative netnographic study was conducted to obtain further clinical/pharmacological/toxicological data, including psychonauts’ online trip reports.

Results: First designer BZDs appeared as NPS around 2007. So far, 29 designer BZDs have been notified to the EMCDDA, being some of them extremely powerful, also at lower dosages. They are sold as tablets/powder/pellets/capsules/blotters/liquids, at very affordable prices, and variably administered. Some are also sold on the illicit drugmarket as counterfeit forms of traditional BZDs or as either adulterants or diluents in heroin or other synthetic opioids/cannabinoids. Nowadays, there is no guarantee of the quality of designer BZDs composition/purification and, hence, most NPS consumers may be inadvertently exposed to unsafe and harmful compounds.

Conclusions: Given the limited information on their pharmacology/toxicity, variations in dosage, onset of effects, combination of substances, potency, and general patient or individual variability, the concomitant use of these substances with other drugs entails several and unpredictable risks.


Submitted 17 October 2019.Reviewers comments received 2 November 2019. Accepted 9 January 2020.

ID: 18744441