DrugScope has responded to a joint report on new drugs published by Europol, the European law enforcement agency, and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The two agencies state that a total of 41 new psychoactive substances were officially reported across Europe in 2010. This is almost double the 24 reported in 2009.
Most new drugs are slight modifications of the chemical structures of known substances such as ecstasy or amphetamine. While designer drugs are not a new concept, the report suggests there is now an ever greater interaction between the illicit and non-illicit pharmaceutical markets. Chemicals sourced legally are being sold as replacements for illicit psychoactive substances intended for illicit drug markets in Europe and the rest of the world.
The UK government is introducing new measures to respond to new so-called legal highs. A power to introduce temporary bans is included in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. The Government will consult the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs on known or potential health risks and harms before any temporary ban is introduced. An early warning system to detect new drugs is also being developed.
Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said: The last few years have seen the emergence of a dynamic new drug business, with chemists and manufacturers targeting the UK and other countries with potentially harmful substances.
The make up of these new substances may bear little relation to a users expectations. Head shops and online sellers, often buying in large batches from overseas, cannot be certain what they are purchasing and selling on. Existing brand names such as Ivory Wave or Meow Meow may contain a range of different and harmful compounds.
The speed at which substances are emerging is unprecedented and presents challenges for enforcement, education and prevention and health responses. We are not yet seeing a new mephedrone in terms of levels of availability and use, but it is right to be vigilant and to underline the very real risks and unpredictability in using these substances
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