Seven people have been taken to hospital after taking the sleeping medication Zopiclone, prompting concerns over a “potential contaminated batch”.

Cleveland Police said it had received reports on Friday of the adults being taken to North Tees General Hospital in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham.

The force is also investigating the death of one man thought to have taken Zopiclone.

The force said: “Officers are warning drug users of a potentially contaminated batch which could cause significant illness or lead to an overdose.”

We're warning of a potentially dangerous substance called Zopiclone following several people in the centre of the town being admitted to hospital. Enquiries are ongoing and anyone with information or concerns is asked to get in touch by calling 101.

What is Zopiclone?

Zopiclone drug is usually taken as a tablet but doctors can order it in liquid form and might also be known by its brand name Zimovane.

The sleeping pill is usually used to treat insomnia takes around an hour to work and helps users fall asleep faster and stop waking in the night.

The drug works by triggering a calming chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), according to the NHS website.

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The NHS warns against drinking alcohol after taking the drug because it can induce a “deep sleep where you find it difficult to wake up”.

Users can become dependent on Zopiclone, the NHS said, and it is prescribed for just two to four weeks because it becomes less effective as the body gets used to it.

The sleeping pill can only be prescribed by a doctor and can be taking most adults over 18 years old.

However, the NHS does share that some may not be able to take zopiclone as they share any one with liver or kidney problems, issues with alcohol or drug abuse, pregnant people or anyone who has ever had mental health problems may not be able to take the medicine.