Health experts in Wales have warned of a spike in the number of substances being bought from so-called “online pharmacies” in the belief that they are legitimate pharmaceutical products.

The Welsh Emerging Drugs and Identification of Novel Substances (WEDINOS) Annual Report 2022-23, shows the number of samples containing the presence of “unknown” substances continued to rise.

Over the past year, 39 per cent of samples submitted to WEDINOS, the drug testing service run by Public Health Wales, did not contain what their buyer expected. That is up from 35 per cent in 2021-22.

Bromazolam, was the illicit drug most commonly identified in the community last year by WEDINOS.

It was also the substance most likely to be sold under the belief that the buyer was purchasing a different product, most often diazepam.

Health experts warn that these drugs, often bought easily online can have serious implications on people’s health as they have no idea what they are actually ingesting, and at what dose.

Benzodiazepines were the most commonly identified chemical group of psychoactive substances for the fifth year running. Bromazolam was the most commonly identified drug within that group, closely followed by MDMA and diazepam.

The annual report found that in 2021, 61 drug misuse deaths in Wales involved benzodiazepines, up from 35 in 2020.

Professor Rick Lines, head of substance misuse at Public Health Wales and WEDINOS said: “These findings underline the importance of WEDINOS to the harm reduction response in Wales.

“Our monitoring allows timely and accurate information regarding the chemical profile of samples, alongside appropriate harm reduction information, to substance misuse services and the public.

“In total, WEDINOS received and analysed 6,656 samples from 74 services and settings across the UK last year, as well as from individuals.”