POLICE are warning the public about the dangers of buying prescription drugs online after a number of deaths suspected to be linked to the issue.

Cumbria Police and staff from Unity, the alcohol and drug recovery service, are issuing advice following a number of deaths suspected to be linked to buying prescription drugs online in recent years.

Prescription drugs falling into the bracket of benzodiazepines, which are known as benzos and include diazepam (sometimes referred to as Valium), are suspected to have been a factor in some of the deaths.

Benzodiazepines are a group of sedative drugs that can be prescribed by suitably qualified health professionals, such as a GP, following a consultation undertaken with due care.

Some people may not take their prescribed benzodiazepines as directed or may give or sell this medication to others. These activities are dangerous and have led to people dying from unintentional overdoses.

There is also a serious issue of people obtaining drugs similar to diazepam on the internet. People using them can be at a high risk of unintentional overdose. Buying drugs illegally also means there are no guarantees what these may actually contain.

Detective Inspector David Howard said: “Buying anything online without knowing the source or seller is dangerous and risky – you don’t know what you will get. Certainly, pills and medication normally prescribed by a suitably qualified health professionals such as a GP should never be bought online without a properly conducted consultation.

“We work closely with partner agencies such as Unity, who can provide people with help, support and guidance.”

Dr Patrick Horgan, consultant in substance misuse at Unity, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), said: “It is very difficult to judge how these kinds of drug will affect people; some benzodiazepines are weak, but some are very strong. With this particular group of drugs, people can also experience very severe symptoms when they stop taking them, such as seizures, fits, and hallucinations.

“Our services are open and available to all those who need us during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you are worried about your or someone else’s alcohol or drug use, then please do get in touch with us.”

Police are also appealing for anyone with information about such sales of prescription drugs to come forward with information to 101.