Fake painkillers containing drug linked to mass overdose deaths in US found in Ireland

Ireland is one of only three European countries where the drug has been intercepted

Irish drug users are starting to import fake painkillers that contain a substance linked to mass overdose deaths in the US.

So far in 2022, two consignments of fake oxycodone tablets have been intercepted by Irish authorities. An analysis of the drugs showed they contained metonitazene, a synthetic opioid variously described as being 10-100 times more powerful than morphine.

Ireland is only the third European country to detect the drug to date. The seizures prompted the EU’s drug monitoring agency to issue a warning across Europe about the highly dangerous drugs.

Metonitazene has recently joined fentanyl as a leading cause of overdose deaths in the US.


It has been detected only a handful of times in Europe. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said only Ireland, Slovenia, and Norway have detected its presence so far.

Figures provided by the Health Products Regulatory Authority show the number of tablets seized is small — just 15 pills across two seizures — but they are likely to represent a fraction of what is being imported.

It is believed the pills, which were labelled as oxycodone, were purchased on the dark web and were intended for personal use.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times