Heroin testing could 'save lives' after North Devon drug deaths

Emergency services were called after incidents in Barnstaple, Bideford and Westward Ho! [BBC]

Heroin users in North Devon are being urged to take advantage of a free test kit that could save their lives.

Five people have been arrested after two deaths linked to what police described as an "unusual batch" of heroin in the county.

The kit allows users to test for nitazenes - synthetic opioids which could have been present in the batch.

Jon Findlay, harm reduction lead for drug recovery charity Humankind, said the testing strips "will save lives".

He said: "It just simply says whether nitazenes are present or aren't present and we'd always give that person more advice around, even if they are present or aren't present, this is what you should be doing in terms of keeping yourself as safe as possible."

'A lot of unknowns'

The rapid response test strips, which operate in a similar fashion to a Covid test, can be dipped into a heroin sample that has been mixed with water.

The presence of nitazenes in a sample will cause control particles to bind to the testing line, causing a line to become visible.

Mr Findlay said there were "a lot of unknowns" within the drug market.

He said information given out alongside the kits, such as not using drugs alone, testing doses and using smaller amounts, meant the tests would "undoubtedly" help to save lives.

Test strip instructions
The test kit allows users to test for nitazenes, which could have been present in the "unusual" heroin batch [BBC]

A major incident was declared by Devon and Cornwall Police on Friday after two people died and 10 were admitted to hospital.

Two men and two women were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the supply of a controlled substance on Saturday, said the force.

A fifth person, a man, was arrested on the same grounds on Sunday.

All five have been released on police bail pending further enquiries, police said.

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