Addicts using street valium are being admitted to A&E across NHS Lothian ‘nearly every single day of the year’ amid a 30% increase in overdoses.
Etizolam is sold to addicts as a cheaper form of valium, costing as little as £1 a pill.
The latest available statistics have revealed the drug is responsible for more deaths in the Lothians than heroin.
Freedom of Information request figures show a 30% rise in the number of people being admitted to A&E across NHS Lothian after overdosing on the drug.
The number of patients admitted to emergency rooms after taking the pill shot up from 243 in 2019/2020 to 349 in 2020/2021, according to the figures.
But the health board said the number of people who overdosed on the pill, also known as ‘blues’, could be even higher.
Doctors have warned mixing illegally sourced “street benzos” poses a serious risk of overdose including potential heart or breathing failure.
It has also sparked fresh calls for community drugs checks and safe consumption rooms.
Scotland-wide drug-related deaths involving benzodiazepines have risen sharply in the last five years, from fewer than 200 deaths per year prior in 2016 to nearly 1000 in 2020.
Benzos were involved in 66% of all drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2020, largely due to consumption of ‘street’ benzos such as etizolam, which rocketed from 58 in 2015 to 879 in 2020.
Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said: “There has been a very concerning increase in the number of people admitted to A&E due to benzodiazepine.
“It’s a clear example of the drug crisis we are facing across Scotland.
“The Scottish Conservatives have secured additional funding for rehabilitation services in Scotland and are bringing forward a bill to enshrine the right to recovery into Scots Law.”
Emma Cranshaw, chief executive of Crew 2000, said: “We are 100% behind the call for developing, funding and expanding evidence-based harm reduction including supporting community drug checking.
“And this shows need for supporting medically supervised facilities like drug consumption rooms.”
A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Alcohol and Drugs Partnership said: “Edinburgh Alcohol and Drugs Partnership share the concern about rising harm being caused by benzodiazepine use.
“We want to highlight the dangers of benzodiazepine use and to encourage people to access our services if they are concerned about their own or about another person’s use.
“Recent additional funding is helping us expand our services which include reaching out to those who are at the highest risk or who have recently had a non-fatal overdose.”