Legal Highs

This is a very powerful and heartbreaking story –  let us hope many young people will take notice and never ‘try’ drugs offered by ‘a friend’

Connor Reid Eckhardt added a new video.

“THIS IS SO IMPORTANT TO SHARE….THIS IS NOT A MOVIE!! OUR 19 YEAR OLD SON CONNOR IS NOT WAKING UP FROM THE SINGLE HIT OF “SPICE, K2,” HE TOOK. It has over 600 names. The credits are not going to roll. He is not going surfing this morning. He is GETTING “THAT HAIR CUT” we never wanted to give before he goes into surgery to donate 4 of his organs to SAVE FOUR OTHER LIVES. Connor died. Our son, our only son died from a legal high purchased at the corner market. No drugs or alcohol in his system. Most, not all legal highs are made in CHINA and sold to our youth. Millions are being affected by these legal highs. Please help us get the attention of presidential candidates. We must get this stopped. An entire generation of children and youth are at risk. Please get educated. The Connor Project Foundation is about Education, Awareness, and Prevention. Doit4connor. Do it for your kids and for your communities.

OUR 19 OLD SON CONNOR IS DEAD FROM ONE HIT OF A SYNTHETIC DRUG called spice. WHERE DOES MOST OF THIS POISON COME FROM??? CHINA!!! Who sells this poison to our kids? Go check out these shop owners. WE LET THESE CHEMICALS INTO THE USA?? Why?? Connor made a decision that night that changed our lives forever. He chose to try legal high offered to him “by a friend”. It is sold over the counter in gas stations, mini marts, smoke shops, etc. Targeted at our youth. Stop the madness and share with at least one person. We must take a stand for Connor and all the others who have died or are institutionalized because of these killer legal highs.”


By Fabrizio Schifano Chair in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at University of Hertfordshire

Fabrizio is a member of the UK advisory council on the misuse of drugs. He has also received EC funding in relation to researching the effects of novel psychoactive substances. These views are his own and in no way represent either the council or the EC.

In one respect, the world’s drug problem is not getting much worse. The UN believes that the use of drugs such as cocaine and heroin has stabilised, for example. In fact, the ground in the drugs battle has just shifted. The focus is now increasingly on legal highs.

People might be aware that altered versions of ecstasy or cannabis are available nowadays, but the true range of what we in the trade call novel psychoactive drugs is far more varied. There are derivatives of everything from ketamine to cocaine, from opiates to psychotropics. Their use is rising, and so is the number of fatalities. Some people fear that the figures are only going in one direction.

Enforcers vs chemists

Why has this happened? In recent years there was a worldwide decrease in the purity of drugs like amphetamine and cocaine and the MDMA content of ecstasy. This decrease helped fuel demand for alternatives (though admittedly there are signs that this purity decrease is now reversing). The internet has also made possible the sort of sharing of information that makes it much easier to sell these substances nowadays. And as has been well documented, banning these drugs is difficult because the manufacturers can constantly bring out new varieties with slight alterations to the chemistry.

It has turned into a battle between the drug enforcers and the drug chemists, who are typically based in the Far East, for example in China and Hong Kong. There are many databases online with information on the molecular structures of existing drugs. This makes it easier for these people to modify them to create a new product.

The market is very strong in the UK. You might think it is because the information online is often written in English. This would explain why Ireland has a big problem too, but then again the US does not. And other problem countries includeLatvia, Hungary, Estonia and Russia.

The big worries

Certain categories particularly worry us. One is the ecstasy derivatives known as phenethylamines. One of the well-known ones in the UK is PMA, which has been nicknamed “Dr Death” because of the number of fatalities. Another is known as “blue mystique”. These have been made illegal in a number of European countries, but many more keep appearing. A related group is known as NBOMe, which are very powerful and therefore also a great concern.

Then there are cannabimimetics, which are sometimes known as the “spice drugs”. There are a few hundred known variations, many of which are very powerful, sometimes thousands of times more than cannabis. They were behind the “spiceophrenia” epidemic in Russia, but are prevalent closer to home too. Last week a new HM Prisons report mentioned them among a number of legal-high concerns in British prisons. To make matters worse, they are very easy to modify and have the big selling point that they can’t always be traced in urine.

Sometimes legal highs are marketed as a solution to a problem that an illegal drug might cause. For example ketamine (“special K”) is known to damage the intestine and bladder, so a new drug reached the market called methoxetamine, or “special M,” which claimed to be bladder-friendly. But in fact it is still toxic for the bladder and also the kidney and central nervous system. And after it was made illegal, a number of other derivatives appeared such as diphenidine. The health risks associated with this class makes the new versions particularly scary.

The unwinnable battle?

We often don’t know how these drugs affect people. Researchers like myself are working on this, but the number of new substances is increasing too quickly for us to keep up. By the time we publish papers focusing on more popular versions, the market has changed. When something goes wrong, doctors don’t know how to treat the effects – in many cases they can’t even ascertain the exact drug.

We have reached the point where I am now more worried about legal highs than illegal drugs. Whenever I see a heroin client in my clinic, I know exactly what to do. That is often not the case with legal highs. And as a psychiatrist I know that they potentially have far more psychiatric consequences than heroin. Whenever you tamper with very sensitive mechanisms in your brain, it’s difficult to know what will happen.

One argument is that we should keep these drugs legal since we are facing an unwinnable battle. But the big drawback with this is that it makes adolescents and other susceptible people think that the drug must be safe. New Zealand tried this approach by permitting drugs to remain in circulation if the producers could demonstrate they were low risk, but this year the government U-turned after there were a number of adverse incidents. Now its approach is similar to the UK with its expanding prohibition schedule.

The problem with the New Zealand low-risk policy is that establishing the safety of a drug is a very slow process if you are going to do it properly. Proving through clinical trials that a drug works, is safe and is not toxic takes upwards of 10 years. Anything less would be cutting corners. If a manufacturer were to go through that process and prove that a drug was low risk, that might be a different discussion, but it’s not going to help with today’s problem.

Similarly there has been some debate about permitting the supply of legal highs but keeping it tightly restricted – perhaps allowing one distributor per town, for example. But this both ignores the reality of the internet and offers no answer to the safety problem.

Another possibility is to legalise the illegal drugs that we know much more about, so that people are encouraged to take them instead. But even if this was politically possible, it doesn’t sound like the right course of action either. I see disasters from drug-taking on a daily basis. And it wouldn’t necessarily stop people from taking legal highs anyway.

The answer to what we actually should do is complex. The answer probably lies in prevention: we need dedicated resources and funding, we need new ideas to try and convince youngsters that these drugs are not safe just because they are legal. This requires a big change in how we see these substances. These are not just some marginal concern. This is the new drug battle for the decades ahead.

Source:  29th October 2014

THE level of people being hospitalised after taking cannabis and related ‘legal highs’ has reached a 10-year peak, according to official figures from the Scottish Government.  More than 900 acute stays in general hospitals – as opposed to psychiatric admissions – involved the drug last year.

The Scottish Tories said the data showed cannabis was not the benign drug some claimed.

The latest figures show that in 2015-16 there were 7537 hospital stays in Scotland with a diagnosis of drug misuse, involving 5922 people, some admitted more than once.

Of these stays, 913 or 12 per cent, involved “cannabinoids”, which include synthetic highs such as Spice as well as the plant form of cannabis.   This was the highest percentage involving cannabinoids since 13 per cent in 2005-06.

Cannabinoids were the most common cause of drug stays among children – accounting for 45 per cent of cases involving under-15s.

The health boards with the most stays were NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (306), NHS Lothian (165) and NHS Lanarkshire (106).  Although still sometimes called a legal high, synthetic cannabis was criminalised last May, with its production and sale made punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Hospital admissions associated with cannabis were almost double those linked to cocaine.

Acute stays involving cocaine were at their highest since 2008-09 last year, but involved 553 admissions, or 7 per cent of all general drug-related cases.

The drugs most associated with hospital admissions were opioids, such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl.

Last year, opioids were behind 4656 stays, or 62 per cent of the drug-related total.  The number and prevalence of opioid admissions has increased hugely in the last 20 years.  In 1996-97, opioids accounted for just 791 stays, then equal to 34 per cent of drug admissions.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Douglas Ross criticised campaigns to decriminalise cannabis and Police Scotland taking a soft touch approach to its use.  The force said in 2015 it might give people caught with cannabis on-the-spot recorded warnings as an alternative to prosecution.   Mr Ross said: “It’s quite alarming that quite so many people are being hospitalised through using cannabis, a drug many people feel authorities are going soft on.

“Not only is it dangerous in its own right, as these statistics prove, but it’s a gateway drug to even more harmful substances.

“We have a massive fight on our hands in Scotland both with illegal drugs and so-called legal highs.   “Now is not the time to give in and wave the white flag.  “We need to crack down on those circulating drugs of all kinds on our streets, and reinforce the message about just how damaging taking these substances can be.”

Scottish LibDem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was a concern that the figures were rising, but said the Conservatives’ solution was “completely wrong and regressive”.  He said: “If anything these figures show that the LibDems have been right in calling for this dark market to be brought out of the shadows.  “If the Tories had their way then they would drive the market further underground exposing people to more dangerous drugs and endangering more lives leading to more hospitalisations.

“The answer is to educate and regulate not to punish as the Tories want to do.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said drug use continued to fall in the general population.  She said: “We have greatly reduced drug and alcohol waiting times with 94 per cent of people now being seen within three weeks of being referred.

“We have also invested over £630m to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008 and over £150m over five years to improve mental health services in Scotland.”

Source:   Jan,2017

Two groups of legal highs that imitate the hallucinogenic effects of LSD and of heroin are to be banned as class A drugs on the recommendation of the government’s drug advisers.

The home secretary, Theresa May, is expected to confirm that AMT, which acts in a similar way to LSD, should be banned along with other chemicals known as tryptamines that have been sold at festivals and in head shops with names including “rockstar” and “green beans”.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said the tryptamine group of chemicals had become widely available in Britain. The experts said four deaths in 2012 and three deaths in 2013 in Britain were attributed to tryptamines. The ACMD also said a synthetic opiate known as AH-7921, sometimes sold as “legal heroin”, should be class A. It follows the death last August of Jason Nock, 41, who overdosed on AH-7921 after buying the “research chemical” on the internet for £25 to help him sleep.

Professor Les Iversen, the ACMD chair, said the substances marketed as legal highs could cause serious damage to health and, in some cases, even death.

He said the ACMD would continue to review new substances as they were picked up by the forensic early warning system in Britain.

“The UK is leading the way by using generic definitions to ban groups of similar compounds to ensure we keep pace within the fast moving marketplace for these drugs,” said Iversen.


Source: 10th June 2014

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are synthesized compounds that are not usually covered by European and/or international laws. With a slight alteration in the chemical structure of existing illegal substances registered in the European Union (EU), these NPS circumvent existing controls and are thus referred to as “legal highs”. They are becoming increasingly available and can easily be purchased through both the internet and other means (smart shops). Thus, it is essential that the identification of NPS keeps up with this rapidly evolving market.

In this case study, the Belgian Customs authorities apprehended a parcel, originating from China, containing two samples, declared as being “white pigments”. For routine identification, the Belgian Customs Laboratory first analysed both samples by gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry and Fourier-Transform Infrared spectroscopy. The information obtained by these techniques is essential and can give an indication of the chemical structure of an unknown substance but not the complete identification of its structure. To bridge this gap, scientific and technical support is ensured by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) to the European Commission Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Unions (DG TAXUD) and the Customs Laboratory European Network (CLEN) through an Administrative Arrangement for fast recognition of NPS and identification of unknown chemicals. The samples were sent to the JRC for a complete characterization using advanced techniques and chemoinformatic tools.

The aim of this study was also to encourage the development of a science-based policy driven approach on NPS.

These samples were fully characterized and identified as 5F-AMB and PX-3 using1H and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), high-resolution tandem mass-spectrometry (HR-MS/MS) and Raman spectroscopy. A chemo-informatic platform was used to manage, unify analytical data from multiple techniques and instruments, and combine it with chemical and structural information.

Source:   August 2016   Volume 265, Pages 107–115


UNDERWORLD figures are making a fortune from psycho-active substances without fear of prosecution, according a leading expert on the lethal drugs. 

Professor Neil McKeganey, who heads up the Centre for Drug Misuse Research (CDMR) in the city’s West End, said legal highs are now being made in makeshift labs in Glasgow. 

He said shadowy underworld figures have realised the “limitless potential” to make money from psychoactive substances.  The award-winning researcher said: “The situation we face in relation to what are called psychoactive substances, or legal highs, to me is one of the most worrying and most significant changes in the pattern of drug use in Scotland in the last decade, for two reasons – the number of legal highs that are now available and the speed with which they are being developed and marketed.

“What we are seeing is an entire cultural shift where drug use was seen as a hidden activity associated with the black market to what is now an open part of the economy. That is shocking.  We know they are deadly because they have already been associated in Scotland with a 400% increase in deaths associated with people consuming these substances between 2010 and 2012. There’s absolutely no question of the harm associated with these substances.”

Prof McKeganey has warned that the supply chain must be broken or more people will die.  He said: “Something has to be done now to tackle the supply. A large proportion of these drugs are coming from China and India. But because the chemistry knowledge required to manu-facture them is not huge, some of it will be occurring in this city.”

The Evening Times put the claim to Detective Chief Inspector Garry Mitchell, of the Specialist Crime Division.   He said: “I’m not in a position to counter that. It is part of a criminal investigation that’s ongoing. It will be a key focus of that.”

Prof McKeganey added: “We sit on a precipice. Either we deal with these drugs robustly and we deal with those who are selling these drugs, or we virtually have no way of impeding the expansion of that market. Remember, this is an economy so there will be people associated with the traditional drug trade in Glasgow realising that there is a new, potentially limitless, market that will mean their powerbase will diminish if they don’t get into that.  They will be driven by the financial imperative to get into the legal highs market and that will involve importation, distribution and production, where that’s possible. They won’t just sit and watch a parallel drugs economy take off.”

He suggests banning whole categories of drugs. He said: “Any drug which is marketed to induce a certain reaction in the brain or is similar to other drugs that are currently covered by legislation, should be made illegal.

“Unless we have that level of clarity, you are just feeding the problem because there are potentially limitless numbers of individuals who are prepared to manufacture and sell these substances when they are entirely legal.”

Source:    9th Sept. 2014 

Filed under: Legal Highs :

Everything you need to know about fake weed.

If you’re confused by synthetic marijuana, then a series of recent news stories about the drug probably didn’t clear things up. First, the Boston Globe reported that New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones “had a bad reaction to a substance he put into his body” and walked to a nearby police station to get help. That substance, the Globe later explained, was synthetic marijuana. Then last week, police in Washington state reported that another NFL player, Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman, admitted to smoking synthetic weed in October before getting into a hit-and-run car accident. After the accident, witnesses described Coleman as acting “delirious and aggravated.”

Off the sports pages, you might have seen a story about a group of senior citizens in Pennsylvania who got arrested for running a synthetic marijuana trafficking ring worth more than $1.5 million. Or perhaps you saw the one about a pair of brothers in Milwaukee, ages 12 and 13, ending up in the hospital after smoking some fake pot and having a violent reaction that included foaming at the mouth, “throwing up white mucus,” “talking funny,” and shaking.

These are only the latest data points showing the rise of synthetic marijuana as a staple of recreational drug use in America. Against the backdrop of softening attitudes toward actual marijuana, synthetic weed has attracted a strange coalition of users, including athletes, curious teenagers, and desperate homeless people. Here’s a primer on the drug whose ambiguous legal status and unpredictable side effects have turned it into a bleak cultural phenomenon.

What is synthetic marijuana, and how is it different from normal weed?

The most important fact to understand about synthetic marijuana is that it isn’t just one thing. It’s more like a category of things, a family of man-made chemicals that have one major characteristic in common: They interact with the same cell receptors in the brain as THC, the active ingredient in natural cannabis. In theory, someone could ingest these chemicals in any number of ways, but manufacturers play up the association between their products and traditional marijuana by spraying their chemicals onto diced-up dry plant matter that can be sold in baggies and smoked.

When you buy one of these baggies, you’re basically getting a chemical—you never know which one—that’s been dressed up in a weed costume. But the similarities pretty much end there. In fact, most public health experts frown on the phrase “synthetic marijuana” because they think it overstates the extent to which the chemicals used to make it resemble THC. They prefer the term “synthetic cannabinoids.”

Where did synthetic cannabinoids come from, and how long have they been around?

Like ecstasy and LSD, SCs owe their existence to academic research. The chemist who developed the first SC compounds was a Clemson University professor named John W. Huffman, who was interested in the brain receptors that regulate “appetite, nausea, mood, pain and inflammation.” According to this Washington Post profile, Huffman synthesized a compound he called JHW-018 in 1993 and published a series of academic papers that contained the formula. Years later, that formula was used as a recipe by underground drugmakers, causing Huffman—now a reclusive 80-something who lives in the Smoky Mountains—great consternation. When he first heard that people were using the compounds he created to get high, Huffman told the Post, he thought it was kind of funny. “Then I started hearing about some of the bad results, and I thought, ‘Hmm, I guess someone opened Pandora’s box.’ ”

When did people start manufacturing synthetic marijuana as a recreational drug?

Products based on Huffman’s formula started popping up on a large scale in Europe and the United States in 2008 and 2009, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (see p. 23-24).

I’ve heard of Spice and K2. Are those the same thing?

They refer to the same kind of thing, yes, though there’s a huge amount of variation when it comes to what’s actually in this stuff. Other names that have been used to market synthetic cannabinoids—and there are literally hundreds—include Bliss, Cowboy Kush, and Scooby Snax. They are almost universally embarrassing—and therefore, attractive to dumb young people—especially in conjunction with the doofy images of dragons, smiley faces, and cartoon animals that are used on the packaging.

How much does synthetic marijuana cost?

It’s cheap, which is a big part of the draw. You can find it in bulk online, where it costs in the neighborhood of $50 per ounce. In smoke shops and convenience stores, smaller packets are priced as low as $10.

How do synthetic cannabinoids make people feel?

It depends on the chemicals used to make them, plus how large a quantity of those chemicals gets sprayed on by the manufacturer. (According to a Time story from 2014, the “crude way in which producers spray the chemicals … can create hot spots where the concentration of the chemical is dangerously high.”) Side effects of smoking synthetic cannabinoids—or maybe just effects?—include catatonia, profound anxiety and paranoia, nausea and vomiting, elevated heartbeat and blood pressure, seizures, and hallucinations. They also seem to be addictive and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been linked to acute kidney failure. Synthetic marijuana has also been linked to multiple deaths, including 15 in the first four months of 2015.

That sounds dangerous. Is the media just trying to scare me?

It’s definitely more dangerous than regular marijuana, which has mellowing properties that synthetic cannabinoids don’t have. While drugs like heroin and methamphetamine cause far more deaths in absolute terms, the number of emergency room visits involving synthetic cannabinoids does seem to be growing. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there were approximately 28,531 emergency room visits involving synthetic cannabinoids in 2011, two and a half times more than in 2010. (More recent data are not available.) That’s a drop in the bucket compared with the nearly 2.5 million emergency room visits in 2011 that were linked to all drugs put together, but it’s not nothing. And the user base for SCs seems to be expanding: In 2010, SAMHSA’s data indicated that the number of emergency room visits linked to SC use among people older than 30 didn’t reach a measurable level, but in 2011 it did.

You make this drug sound terrible. What do people like about it?

Different people use it for different reasons, but one of the main sources of its appeal is that it’s hard for authorities to prove that using it or manufacturing it is illegal. The decreased risk of arrest and prosecution makes synthetic marijuana cheaper and more widely available than other drugs. This is because testing for a drug requires knowing exactly what you’re testing for, and the huge variety of chemical compounds used to manufacture synthetic marijuana makes this extremely difficult. The result is that synthetic cannabinoids have attracted an unusual coalition of users. That group includes the homeless, who gravitate to it because it’s cheap and long-lasting, as well as athletes (both college and pro), soldiers, and parolees, who like it because it

allows them to get high without having to worry about failing their mandatory drug tests.

Why is it harder for authorities to deal with synthetic cannabinoids than other drugs?

Because, again, it’s not just one drug! According to Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, there are hundreds of cannabinoid compounds out there, and new ones are constantly being developed by entrepreneurial drugmakers who order the chemicals from China before packaging the drug here in the U.S. (Vice’s drug correspondent Hamilton Morris traveled to China and met some of the chemists responsible for filling the orders.) So even though state and federal governments have placed some varieties of SCs on their controlled substance schedules, manufacturers and distributors can avoid straightforward prosecution by tweaking their formulas and switching to varieties that are not, in the strictest sense, illegal. It’s a “whack-a-mole” problem—ban one form of the drug and another two will pop up instantly. Or, as SAMHSA researcher Donna Bush put it to me, “It’s a cat chasing a monster mouse.”

So is the drug-enforcement cat just totally powerless against this synthetic-marijuana mouse?

Not exactly. The single best weapon that law enforcement has for dealing with the whack-a-mole problem is the Federal Analogue Act, a section of the United States Controlled Substances Act that was passed in 1986. The Analogue Act gives prosecutors the power to pursue drugmakers and distributors who traffic in substances that are “substantially similar” in their chemical makeup and their pharmacological effect to Schedule I and II drugs.

So that makes not-quite-illegal substances de facto illegal by virtue of their similarity to substances that are illegal?

Yes, except there are a few catches. First, proving that two substances are “substantially similar” is hard, because the definition of “substantially similar” is on some level subjective. That makes the process expensive, because prosecutors have to enlist expert chemists to conduct tests and testify in court against experts hired by the defense. Prosecutors must also prove that their defendants knew that what they were selling was substantially similar to an illegal drug.

Is that why baggies containing synthetic cannabinoids are often marketed as “herbal incenses” or “potpourri,” or say that they’re “not intended for human consumption”?

Yes, although it’s not clear that helps get anyone off the hook. In fact, according to Carla Freedman, an assistant U.S. attorney who has prosecuted multiple synthetic cannabinoid cases, that kind of deceptive labelling can be seen as “evidence of a guilty mind,” as it was defined in a recent Supreme Court decision. “Usually you don’t have an issue showing that they didn’t really intend for the product to be used as incense or potpourri,” Freedman told me. “So then you have to ask, ‘If you knew it was going to be smoked and ingested, and you thought it was lawful, then why are you calling it something else?’ … If I’m selling Red Bull, I don’t call it window cleaner, I call it an energy drink. I don’t mislabel it.”

I’ve heard some people argue that legalizing marijuana—or just being more tolerant of it in contexts like sports—would result in fewer people using synthetic weed. Is that true?

No one really knows. It’s definitely true that some users say they use synthetic cannabinoids as a substitute for the real thing. In a big New York Times Magazinepiece from last summer, an addict was quoted saying it was a “miracle drug” because it didn’t show up on drug screens, but that nobody he knew would choose

it over real weed. Similarly, NFL stars like Chandler Jones likely wouldn’t turn to it if they didn’t have to worry about drug testing. But there seem to be lots of people who like SCs because they are cheap, powerful, and long-lasting, qualities that actual marijuana might not be able to match.


The drug kratom is being used by some people as an alternative to heroin and other illegal drugs even though it, too, can be addictive, The New York Times reports.

Kratom is increasingly popular and easily available, the article notes. Some people using kratom go back to using heroin, which is stronger and less expensive. Powdered forms of kratom, which come from a leaf found in Southeast Asia, are sold in head shops, gas station convenience stores and online.

The drug is categorized as a botanic dietary supplement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot restrict the sale of kratom unless it is proved unsafe, or manufacturers claim it treats a medical condition. The FDA banned the import of kratom into the United States in 2014.

Kratom is not controlled under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has listed kratom as a “drug and chemical of concern,” and  notes on its website that there is no legitimate medical use for kratom in the United States.

According to the DEA, at low doses, kratom produces stimulant effects with users reporting increased alertness, physical energy, and talkativeness. At high doses, users experience sedative effects.

Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming have banned kratom. The Army has forbidden its use by soldiers, according to the newspaper.

“It’s a fascinating drug, but we need to know a lot more about it,” said Dr. Edward W. Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who has studied kratom. “Recreationally or to self-treat opioid dependence, beware — potentially you’re at just as much risk” as with an opiate, he said.

Kratom bars have opened in South Florida, as well as Colorado, New York and North Carolina. The bars sell brewed varieties of kratom, in plastic bottles that look like fruit juice.

Source:  7th January 2016

Filed under: Legal Highs :

Hospitals across the country have been reporting hundreds of cases of seriously ill people coming to the emergency room after using synthetic marijuana. In New York City, more than 120 cases were reported in a single week, according to NPR.

Many cases have also been seen in Alabama and Mississippi. Several people have died, the article notes.

Synthetic marijuana is often sold under the name “K2” or “Spice.” According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, these drugs can be extremely dangerous. Health effects can include severe agitation and anxiety; fast, racing heartbeat and high blood pressure; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors; intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes; and suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions.

“We have to chemically restrain and physically restrain them because they become violent and very strong. It takes four to five personnel to restrain them on a gurney,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told NPR. One patient last week ended up in the ICU. “He was combative and required sedation in the ER,” Dr. Glatter said.

There is likely something unusual about the K2 that is causing the recent rash of ER visits, Dr. Glatter notes. Makers of synthetic drugs frequently change their molecular structure, to evade laws that outlaw the drugs. The changing structure also makes the drugs more difficult to detect on drug tests. These changes make the effects of the drugs more unpredictable.

“Chemists are getting more and more creative in designing these structures,” said Marilyn Huestis of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She added, “What’s in it today isn’t going to be what’s in it tomorrow.”

Source: 28th April 2015

Lynne Featherstone accepts advisory council’s recommendation of 12-month ban on substances including most widely used alternative to cocaine

Mephedrone, also known as 4-MMC and used as an alternative to cocaine, has already been banned in the UK. Photograph: Rex

Five legal highs, including an alternative to cocaine that is one of the most common in Britain, are to be banned from midnight on Thursday, ministers have announced.

The drug minister, Lynne Featherstone, said she had accepted a recommendation from the government’s official drug advisers that the five legal highs should face a temporary ban of 12 months while a full assessment of the harm they posed was undertaken.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has said one of the five legal highs, ethylphenidate, which users inject and is widely marketed as a “research chemical” or as a component in branded products such as Gogaine, Nopaine, Burst and Banshee Dust, has been available over the internet in Britain for four years. They said it was one of the most commonly encountered new psychoactive substances (NPSs), as legal highs are officially known, in Britain and has emerged as an alternative to cocaine.

The ACMD recommended the ban on ethylphenidate based on evidence that it had caused serious problems, particularly in Edinburgh and Taunton, Somerset. Four related compounds are to banned at the same time to prevent users switching.

Ethylphenidate is typically sold at £15 a gram for powder, £20 a gram in crystal form and £1 for a 50mg tablet. Professor Les Iversen, the chair of ACMD, said injecting users were putting themselves at risk of blood-borne disease and infections.

Police Scotland said Burst, as it is marketed in Edinburgh, was responsible for the majority of legal-high casualties seeking emergency hospital treatment in the city last summer.

Avon and Somerset police said an epidemic of injecting legal highs in public places in Taunton last summer had led to more than 200 needles being recovered in one clean-up day. In December, the high street “head shop” selling the products was closed down.

The banned substances are closely related to methylphenidate, a licensed stimulant marketed under the brand name of Ritalin that is regularly prescribed to children for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The temporary ban means anyone caught making, supplying or importing the drugs will face up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine. Possession is not illegal but police and border officials are allowed to search or detain anyone they suspect of having the drugs and seize, keep or dispose of the banned substance.

Drug law reform campaigners said such bans were simply trapping authorities in an “endless game of whack-a-mole” as they tried to play catch-up with drugs chemists. They said that while the government had responded to the frenzy over legal highs, drug misuse deaths overall had risen sharply.

The decision to ban methylphenidate-related substances while continuing to use the parent chemical as a medicine might raise questions over the safety of a drug often prescribed to children.

Ethylphenidate-based products are a growing issue and their use is associated with bizarre and violent behaviour

Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

“The methylphenidate-related materials being marketed as NPS have psychoactive effects so similar to the parent compound that they can be expected to present similar risks to users,” Iversen said in the letter.

Although it has been marketed as a party drug, the ACMD’s advice warns that some ethylphenidate users appear to have developed chronic problems, continually redosing the drug intravenously in binges.

The ACMD report says that in Edinburgh “there has recently been a report of an outbreak of Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes infections in this area associated with NPS injecting, which is believed to involve ethylphenidate.”

It added: “Ethylphenidate-based products are a growing issue in Edinburgh and their use is associated with bizarre and violent behaviour.”

Drugs reform campaigners said the government’s use of temporary bans on new substances had authorities constantly playing catch up with drugs chemists. The only answer was wholesale reform of drug policy, they said. Danny Kushlick, head of external affairs for Transform, said: “These substances have been brought out because of the success in enforcing the ban on ecstasy and cocaine in particular. Really we have to recognise that this is a self-inflicted trade.








Legal high drug deaths soar in UK

“If we were to have a regulated trade in drugs these ones would not exist. You would not have ‘fake cocaine’ if you could get real cocaine. The whole NPS market is a product of prohibition.

“This is a never-ending game of whack-a-mole because even using the analogues legislation there are new analogues; they can churn these out by the hundreds. This is the opposite of control and regulation. It’s fuelling anarchy in the market and we need to look at regulating frameworks for more benign drugs.”

Niamh Eastwood, director of Release, said new bans on substances only served to push drug use further underground and spur the development of new chemicals with unknown risks to users.

She said: “Speaking more broadly, the government appears to have made NPS something of a cause célèbre in its fight against drugs, apparently in response to the media frenzy over what many unhelpfully term ‘legal highs’. While NPS are indeed a part of the modern debate on drugs, they form a comparatively small part of the market.

“At a time when the associated harms are increasing for other substances – drug misuse deaths rose 21% in 2013, 32% when focusing solely on heroin/morphine deaths – there is a real risk that the government is turning its attention away from addressing the failures of its drug policy holistically in order to pander to poorly-founded fears over this new phenomenon.”

Ethylphenidate is already banned in Denmark, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Sweden, Jersey and Turkey. It is also classified under analogue scheduling in the US and Australia.

The other substances recommended for the temporary ban by the ACMD included 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate, methylnaphthidate, isopropylphenidate and propylphenidate. It wasn’t clear how widespread their use was.

Methylphenidate, the drug from which ethylphenidate and its related compounds is derived, is currently controlled as a class B drug in Britain but also licensed as a medicine for conditions including ADHD and narcolepsy. It has also been widely used recreationally, and as a study aid. Research has found it can offer modest improvements in working memory and episodic memory.


Several students and visitors from Wesleyan University were hospitalized on February 22 after taking the club drug MDMA. U.S. DEA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/REUTERS

At least 11 people from the Wesleyan University campus in Middletown, Connecticut, were hospitalized on Sunday with symptoms consistent with drug overdoses. School officials and emergency responders are blaming MDMA, also known as Molly, a form of the drug ecstasy that medical experts say has become increasingly popular on college campuses.

Though some reports said 11 people had received medical treatment, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth put the number at 12 in an email to students on Monday. That includes 10 students and two visitors.

“I ask all students: Please, please stay away from illegal substances, the use of which can put you in extreme danger. One mistake can change your life forever,” Roth wrote. “And please keep those still hospitalized in your hearts and minds. Please join me in supporting their recovery with your prayers, thoughts and friendship.”

In a statement on Monday, a Middletown Police Department spokeswoman, Lieutenant Heather Desmond, wrote that her department would be involved in an investigation into “the origin of the drugs taken” and to “determine the extent of the criminal involvement in the case.”

A spokeswoman for Middlesex Hospital tells Newsweek it treated 11 people, three of whom are still there and four of whom were airlifted by helicopter to Hartford Hospital. She could not comment on the conditions of the three patients there. A spokeswoman for Hartford Hospital confirmed that four people were there. She too could not speak to their conditions. The police spokeswoman wrote that two individuals are in critical condition and two are in serious condition.

Middletown Fire Chief Robert Kronenberger tells Newsweek his department made seven runs to Wesleyan related to the incident on Sunday after receiving calls between 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. It rendered aid to eight individuals, including two people in a single dorm room. “We saw the trend and we worked with the university and the police department to notify them of the trend,” Kronenberger says. “We’ve never had anything to this extent,” he says, referring to health and safety issues at Wesleyan. “A couple of them were in some serious dire straits,” he says about the students, adding that they were cooperative. “As a parent of two college-age students, this definitely concerns me and hopefully something to this extent will open eyes,” he says.

Wesleyan’s student newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus, first reported about the incident on its website on Sunday after the school’s vice president for student affairs, Michael Whaley, sent a series of emails to students.

Medical experts say MDMA use on college campuses has grown in recent years, and while there have been reports of bad reactions to the drug, it appears the Wesleyan incident is the most widespread.

In 2013, a University of Virginia sophomore collapsed at a nightclub after taking MDMA and later died. Students at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York; Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire; and Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas have also died after taking the drug. In 2013, organizers of the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City cut the event short after two people died while taking MDMA, including a University of New Hampshire student.

“This age group is a risk-taking group that is willing to follow their friend wherever they go, and if the person next to them is popping a pill, then they’re going to do it too,” says Dr. Mark Neavyn, director of medical toxicology at Hartford Hospital, who treats patients there for MDMA overdoses.

“I think the popular culture engine kind of made it seem safer in some way,” Neavyn says, referring to references to the drug by the singers Miley Cyrus and Madonna that made headlines.

But when it comes to MDMA, people are rarely taking what they think they’re taking, the doctor says.

According to Neavyn, symptoms of an MDMA overdose include fast heart rate, high blood pressure, delirium, elevated body temperature and alterations in consciousness. Extreme cases could involve cardiac arrhythmia and seizures.

Wesleyan, which has about 2,900 full-time undergraduate students and 200 graduate students, also apparently dealt with MDMA-related issues last semester. As the Argus reported, the school’s Health Services Department emailed students on September 16 following a series of MDMA-related hospitalizations.

One former Wesleyan student from the class of 2011, who requested anonymity when discussing drug use, says the news is not surprising, given the prevalence of drugs on campus. “Anything you can imagine…would be readily available there,” the person says. “I don’t think at Wesleyan you need [a campus event] to take drugs. If it’s sunny, there’s probably a good percentage of people that are taking something.”

The campus activities calendar did not show any major events scheduled for Saturday or Sunday.

Another former Wesleyan student from the class of 2012, who also requested anonymity, says the drug culture at Wesleyan is comparable to that at similar schools. “It’s one of those things where, much like at those schools, you kind of have an understanding of where you can go to get it and who had it,” the person says. “If there’s a will there’s a way.” weds Feb. 2015


Painkiller addicted baby

 Doctors in the United States are seeing more infants born addicted to narcotic painkillers — a problem highlighted by a new Florida-based report.

These infants experience what’s called neonatal abstinence syndrome as they undergo withdrawal from the addictive drugs their mothers took during pregnancy. Most often these are narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, morphine or hydrocodone, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Since 1995, the number of such newborns jumped 10-fold in Florida while tripling nationwide, the researchers said.

“These infants can experience severe symptoms that usually appear within the first two weeks of life,” said lead researcher Jennifer Lind, a CDC epidemiologist.    The symptoms can include seizures, fever, excessive crying, tremors, vomiting and diarrhea, she said. And withdrawal can take a few weeks to a month.

Dr. David Mendez is a neonatologist at Miami Children’s Hospital. He said, “Being in Florida, I can tell you there’s been an explosion in the number of babies going through neonatal abstinence syndrome. It’s clearly related to the exposure moms have to all narcotic painkillers.”

Mendez said the infants go through a difficult time, but they do recover.  Sometimes it’s enough to keep these babies in a quiet environment, but almost four out of five need treatment with morphine or the anticonvulsant phenobarbital to quell seizures and other withdrawal symptoms, Lind said.

The report — which used data from three Florida hospitals — cites a need for improved counseling and treatment of drug-abusing and drug-dependent women earlier in pregnancy.   Previous studies have found that addiction to narcotic painkillers can increase the risk for premature births, low birth weight and birth defects, Lind said. “Some of the birth defects are heart defects and defects of the brain and the spine,” she said.  “More studies are needed to look at long-term outcomes,” she added.

In 2009, the national incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome was 3.4 per 1,000 births, less than Florida’s total of 4.4 per 1,000 births, according to background information in the report. Florida officials, alarmed by the increase, last year asked the CDC for help in assessing the problem.  According to the report, 242 infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome were identified in three Florida hospitals in the two-year period from 2010 to 2011.

The researchers found that 99.6 percent of these babies had been exposed to narcotic painkillers and had serious medical complications, according to the March 6 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.   Nearly all of the addicted infants required admission to the neonatal intensive care unit, and average length of stay was 26 days, the investigators found.  The condition is very expensive to treat, Lind said.

Mendez added that lengthy hospital stays aren’t just for treatment. “Some of it is due to the social issues that affect these babies,” he said.  The mothers are often incapable of caring for their babies, Mendez explained. “Hospitals become the babysitter while social services arrange for a new home for the baby,” he said.  Lind said that only about 10 percent of the babies’ mothers had been referred for drug counseling or rehabilitation during pregnancy, even though many tested positive for drugs in urine tests.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is preventable simply by not taking drugs or by getting treatment for addiction, she said.  From conception on, a pregnant woman is responsible for another human being, Mendez stressed. “Anything a woman does to herself she does to her baby. So if you are engaged in high-risk behavior, if you are taking drugs, they are going to impact the baby,” he said.

Source:   6th March 2015

Powdered gelatin was invented in 1845, powdered fruit drink in 1928. Given the success of Jell-O and Kool-Aid, it’s strange that it took this long for powdered alcohol to show up. But “alcohol” is soon to be on the market, joining another ill-advised product, powdered caffeine. Both are highly concentrated forms of legal substances that carry substantial health risks. Lawmakers should move to ban both.

The inventor of Jell-O, when applying for a patent, called his substance “portable gelatin.” Similarly, the man behind Palcohol touts its portability and markets it like a health drink. “Palcohol is a boon to outdoors enthusiasts such as campers, hikers and others who wanted to enjoy adult beverages responsibly without the undue burden of carrying heavy bottles of liquid,” the website says. (Have these people not heard about flasks?)

It’s likely Palcohol will appeal more to teenagers and alcoholics than mountain climbers, who are more inclined to pack kale smoothies than bourbon and Coke. Its size and weight make it easy to hide; its portability screams potential for abuse.

Even worse is powdered caffeine, blamed for at least two deaths and dozens of hospitalizations for erratic heartbeat, seizures and vomiting. One teaspoon supplies the jolt of 25 cups of coffee. As a dietary supplement, powdered caffeine doesn’t need Food and Drug Administration approval, but in December the agency asked consumers to shun it because of the danger of overdose.

Several U.S. senators recently asked the FDA to ban sales of powdered caffeine, and the agency wants consumers to report adverse reactions. Palcohol should be banned outright, as six states have already done.

THIS editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Feb. 12.

Source:    16th Feb.2015

Filed under: Legal Highs,Social Affairs :

Poisons specialists have flagged rises in calls and online queries about treating users of new psychoactive substances, misleadingly known as ‘legal highs’.

The Public Health England commissioned National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) today publishes its annual report for 2013 to 2014.

And there it has noted further increases in enquiries about so-called ‘legal highs’, especially about man-made cannabis substitutes.

For these drugs there were more than 130 phone queries, a 13-fold increase, from clinicians treating users in the past year. There was also a 2-fold increase in queries from NHS health professionals through the NPIS online database TOXBASE, over the same period.

The only ‘traditional’ illegal drug which frontline medics asked more questions about than so-called ‘legal highs’ last year, was cocaine.

Prof Simon Thomas, director of the Newcastle unit of the NPIS, said:

The manufacturers of these so-called ‘legal’ highs are moving quickly to create new drugs as these substances are banned.

This is a significant problem for us because although new products are chemically similar to ones that have been banned, each new substance is different and information on their safety is very limited. Synthetic forms of cannabis have been used increasingly in recent years and pose users a particular problem as some appear considerably more toxic than traditional cannabis and many are now controlled as class B drugs. Those who use these substances are taking a real gamble with their health.

Rosanna O’Connor, PHE’s director for drugs and alcohol, said:

PHE will be strengthening our efforts around tackling the use of new and emerging substances. We support local areas to address the issue. This involves sharing intelligence about these substances, including on the harms they cause and the best responses; educating young people about the risks; preventing and treating harm; and supporting those who have developed problems to address them.

PHE works with the Department of Health and Home Office to raise awareness about the dangers of drug misuse via the Government’s FRANK website and helpline

NPIS is an advisory service for medics working in the frontline in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals. As well as a telephone hotline that medics can use, and which took more than 50,000 calls during the 2013 to 2014 period,NPIS runs an database called TOXBASE which offers clinical users background and treatment information on thousands of poisons and chemicals. The site was accessed more than 575,000 times in the period covered by the report.

The report, which only deals with queries to the service not total number of patient presentations at UK hospitals, also highlights that the advisory service saw a notable increase in queries about e-cigarettes.

In 2013 to 2014 the service was contacted for advice 204 times, which is more than all the calls it received on the subject between 2007 and 2013 combined.

Dr John Thompson, Director of the Cardiff unit of NPIS, said:

Most of the exposures of which we are aware were accidents. Almost half were in children and young people, including some cases concerning under-5s. Children are curious and we know from experiences with other products that sometimes they explore their environment by putting things in their mouths.

We know these products can contain toxic doses of nicotine so could cause serious harm to a child. Nicotine poisoning can be unpleasant and can potentially cause vomiting, hyperventilating, and changes in heart rate.

Luckily the incidents involving severe toxicity remain low, but e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular and adults using these products should be careful about keeping them out of reach of children, just as they would dishwasher tablets or liquid detergent capsules. Read the NPIS annual report.

Source:     Public Health England  23 October 2014

Filed under: Legal Highs :

Synthetic cannabinoids, better known on the street as “K2” or “Spice,” have pharmacological effects that are up to 100 times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, says a new study.  Scientists from the University of Maryland and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) wrote an article, giving an overview of the effects of synthetic marijuana. In order to replicate the effects of using natural marijuana, laboratories illegally manufacture cannabinoid compounds that act on the same cell receptors that THC does. Users find synthetic cannabis appealing because the substance often does not appear when drug tested.  Studies showed that the pharmacological effects of synthetics can be 2-100 times more potent than THC, including analgesic, anti-seizure, weight loss, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer growth effects. Synthetics mimic physiological and psychoactive effects of THC, but are more intense, commonly resulting in medical and psychiatric emergencies.  Side effects in humans after using synthetic marijuana include nausea and vomiting; shortness of breath or depressed breathing; hypertension; tachycardia; chest pain; muscle twitches; acute renal failure; anxiety; agitation; psychosis; suicidal ideation and cognitive impairment.  The long-term or residual effects of using synthetic cannabis is still unknown.

Source:    18th Sept 2014

Filed under: Legal Highs,Synthetics :

The Centre for Social Justice has just produced a report “Ambitious for Recovery” on how well the UK is doing in tackling its drugs problem. An assessment coming from what is widely seen as a Conservative leaning think-tank might be expected to be favourably inclined towards the government- if that was the government’s own view they’ll be revising it now. This is a report that identifies failure at every turn.

When the Conservative Party won the election there was an expectation that the world of drug treatment would undergo massive change, ushering in a focus on recovery and abstinence-oriented treatment, rather than presiding over a national methadone programme that saw tens of thousands of heroin addicts left long-term on their substitute medication.

Things are not as bad now as they were, with pockets of excellence in recovery-oriented care and treatment, but they are not as good as it should be.  We know from research that those addicts who are lucky enough (and they are shockingly few in number) to get a place in an abstinence-focused residential rehabilitation programme stand the greatest chance of overcoming their addiction. Sadly, the demise of the residential rehab sector that Labour presided over has continued under the  Coalition Government. If Nick Clegg wants to get in a lather about drug issues, then why does he not take up the fact that we don’t have single residential rehabilitation centre for adolescents with drugs problems?

This report from the CSJ is welcome and courageous in taking the Government to task. It boldly calls for more use of drug courts, for scrapping the awful FRANK programme, for taxing alcohol and using the money to pay for residential drug treatment programmes, for improving prison-based treatment and for tackling the problem of new psychoactive drugs.

Over the last few years, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of deaths associated with these drugs – in Scotland there has been a 1000 per cent increase in novel psychoactive substance linked deaths in four years. However, alongside all the handwringing and the exhortation to “do something” we still have these drugs being openly sold on the high streets across the UK.

New Zealand tried to license their sale in a move that was prematurely championed by the drugs legalisers only to find that the drugs they were licensing were so harmful they needed to institute an immediate outright ban. In England, we have a Lib Dem Home Office Minister who seems more interested in punting liberal ideas on drugs than tackling a problem that is being compounded by his own Government’s failure to act.

Source:    18th August 2014

Filed under: Legal Highs :

Campaigners are warning Freshers starting university not to be lulled into a false sense of security by assuming that substances are not dangerous because they are not illegal


A selection of ‘legal high’ drugs for sale in the United Kingdom Photo: Alamy

Almost one in five new students starting university this term has experimented with so-called legal highs, a new survey has found. 

A study conducted among fresher’s arriving at a large university in southern England, found that 19 per cent admitted trying one of the potentially lethal but legal substances in the past. A further 36 per cent of those questioned said they had been offered the drugs, while 61 per cent claimed to have a friend who had taken them.

Legal highs have become an increasing problem in recent years as unscrupulous manufacturers seek to mimic the effects of outlawed drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis, with substances not on the Government’s banned list.

Last year there were more than 80 new legal psychoactive substances identified across the EU, and each time the authorities outlaw one, the chemists, often based in the Far East, simply tweak the formula and put it back on the market.

Such substances include stimulants called Clockwork Orange, Pink Panther, AMT as well as potently strong batches of synthetic cannabis, which can be four times as powerful as the strongest illegal version of the drug.

While such substances can be purchased entirely legally in shops on the high street, on stalls at festivals and online, they can be just as dangerous as Class A substances. Legal highs have been shown to cause heart attacks, strokes, organ damage through overheating, psychosis and in the most extreme cases death.

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates the number of people in the UK aged between 15 and 24 who have tried legal highs could be in excess of 670,000, making this country the highest consumer in Europe.

Campaigners are now urging youngsters not to be fooled into thinking because they are not against the law, they are not dangerous.

The Angelus Foundation, which is the only British charity dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of legal highs and carried out the freshers’ survey is urging students and parents to get educated about the array of substances currently on the market. Maryon Stewart, who was inspired to set up the charity after her own daughter died taking the drug GBL which was legal at the time, said students were particularly vulnerable to the temptation.

She said: “There is no group more vulnerable to exposure to legal highs than students. Naturally, many take the opportunity to try new experiences and our survey shows one in four have already taken a legal high. Their prevalence appears to be rife. This revelation will be deeply worrying to many parents. “These substances can have highly unpredictable effects and are marketed with little regard for the serious damage they may inflict.

“Young people and parents alike should arm themselves with information on these dangerous substances. It could easily prevent further needless deaths and preserve the mental well-being of young people in the wider world.”

:: The Angelus Foundation has produced a short film offering information on the dangers of synthetic cannabis which can be viewed here:

Source:  28th Sept. 2014

Filed under: Legal Highs,Youth :

One of the original chemists who designed synthetic cannabis for research purposes, John W. Huffman, PhD  once said that he couldn’t imagine why anyone would try it recreationally. Because of its deadly toxicity, he likened it to playing Russian roulette, and said that those who tried it must be “idiots.” Whether that’s the case or not, the numbers of users is certainly rising, and so are overdoses. New Hampshire has declared a state of emergency, and the number of emergency room visits for overdose from the synthetic drug has jumped. One teen died earlier this month after slipping into a coma, reportedly from using the drug. 

Synthetic pot also goes by hundreds of names: Spice, K-2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Bliss, Blaze, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and JWH-018, -073 (and other numerical suffixes), after Huffman’s initials. Synthetic cannabis, unlike pot, however, can cause a huge variety of symptoms, which can be severe: Agitation, vomiting, hallucination, paranoia, tremor, seizure, tachycardia, hypokalemia, chest pain, cardiac problems, stroke, kidney damage, acute psychosis, brain damage, and death.

Why are the effects of synthetic cannabis so varied and so toxic? Researchers are starting to understand more about the drugs, and finding that synthetic cannabis is not even close to being the same drug as pot. Its name, which is utterly misleading, is where the similarity ends. Here’s what we know about what synthetic cannabis is doing to the brain, and why it can be deadly.

1. It’s much more efficient at binding and acting in the brain 

One reason that synthetic cannabis can trigger everything from seizures to psychosis is how it acts in the brain. Like the active ingredient in pot, THC, synthetic cannabis binds the CB1 receptor. But when it binds, it acts as a full agonist, rather than a partial agonist, meaning that it can activate a CB1receptor on a brain cell with maximum efficacy, rather than only partially, as with THC. “The first rule of toxicology is, the dose makes the poison,” says Jeff Lapoint, MD, an emergency room doctor and medical toxicologist. “I drink a cup of water, and I’m fine. I drink gallons of it in some college contest, and I could have a seizure and die. Synthetic cannabinoids are tailor-made to hit cannabinoid receptors – and hit it hard. This is NOT marijuana. Its action in the brain may be similar but the physical effect is so different.”

Another issue with synthetic is its potency, which is huge. “Its potency can be up to one hundred or more times greater than THC – that’s how much drug it takes to produce an effect,” says Paul Prather, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “So it takes much less of them to produce maximal effects in the brain. So these things have higher efficacy and potency…These things are clearly very different from THC and thus not surprising that their use may result in development of life-threatening adverse effects.”

2. CB1 receptors are EVERYWHERE in the brain 

A central reason that synthetic cannabis can produce such an enormous variety of side effects is likely because CB1 receptors are present in just about every brain region there is. When you have a strong-binding and long-lasting compound going to lots of different areas of the brain, you’re going to get some very bad effects.

Yasmin Hurd, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics, and Neuroscience at Mount Sinai Medical Center, says that the wide distribution of CB1 receptors in the brain is exactly why they’re so toxic. “Where they’re located is important – their presence in the hippocampus would be behind their memory effects; their presence in seizure initiation areas in the temporal cortex is why they lead to seizures. And in the prefrontal cortex, this is probably why you see stronger psychosis with synthetic cannabinoids.” The cardiac, respiratory, and gastrointestinal effects probably come from the CB1receptors in the brain stem. It might be any one of these that produces the greatest risk of death.

3. A synthetic cannabis overdose looks totally different from a pot “overdose” 

The clearest proof that synthetic cannabis is a different thing all together is that overdose with the drug looks totally different from an “overdose” with natural marijuana. “Clinically, they just don’t look like people who smoke marijuana,” says Lewis Nelson, MD, at NYU’s Department of Emergency Medicine, Division of Medical Toxicology. “Pot users are usually interactive, mellow, funny. Everyone once in a while we see a bad trip with natural marijuana. But it goes away quickly. With people using synthetic, they look like people who are using amphetamines: they’re angry, sweaty, agitated.”

Whatever’s happening, he says, it may be more than just the replacement of THC with JWH. “It’s almost hard to imagine that it could be related to the partial vs. full agonist aspect of the drug.”

4. The body doesn’t know how to deactivate synthetic

One possibility is that the metabolites of synthetic cannabis are also doing damage to the brain. Usually our bodies deactivate a drug as it metabolizes it, but this may not be the case with synthetic. “What we’re finding from our research,” says Prather, “is that some of the metabolites of synthetic cannabis bind to the receptor just as well as the drug itself – this isn’t the case with THC. The synthetic metabolites seem to retain full activity relative to the parent compound. So the ability of our bodies to deactivate them may be decreased.”

He also points out that what’s lacking in synthetic cannabis is cannabidiol, which is present in natural marijuana and appears to blunt some of the adverse actions of the THC. But if it’s not there in synthetic cannabis, then this is one more way the drug’s toxicity may act unchecked.

5. Quality control is non-existent

Synthetic cannabis is made in underground labs, often in China, and probably elsewhere. The only consistent thing is that there’s no quality control in the formulation process. “Is Crazy Monkey today the same as Crazy Monkey tomorrow?” Prather asks. “No way. The makers take some random herb, and spray it with cannabinoid. They’re probably using some cheap sprayer to spray it by hand. How MUCH synthetic cannabis is in there? You have no idea how much you’re getting.” He adds that there are almost always “hot spots” present in the drug – places where the drug is way more concentrated than others. “Plus, there’s almost always more than one synthetic cannabinoid present in these things – usually four or five different ones.” The bottom line: There’s no telling what you’re getting in a bag of Spice or K-2.

6. The drugs are always evolving

“Someone’s just kind of riffing off JWH,” says Lapoint. There are hundreds of different forms of JWH, and of other synthetic cannabinoids designed by different labs, and the next one is always waiting to go. “It only takes a grad school chemist level to pull it off,” he says. “The first JWH in incense blends was found in Germany around 2008 – it was the JWH-018 in Spice. It took months for the local authorities to figure out what was in it and regulate it. The next week incense blends with another compound, JWH-073, came out. They already had it ready to go – and they’re making something that’s not even illegal yet. Since we started the conversation 10 minutes ago, we’re already behind.”

Would legalizing marijuana kill the synthetic industry? 

The demand for a “legal high” has been so great in recent history that it’s set the stage for the synthetic market to take off, says Lapoint. “It’s like the perfect storm. First we created black market by making marijuana illegal. Then there are all these loopholes in the legislation, so you can feed synthetics through when you change one molecule and call it a different drug.” As mentioned, it takes so long for the FDA to catch up – a year or more – that by the time one drug is made illegal, dozens of other iterations of the synthetic are already formulated and poised for release into the market.

His solution is a three-pronged: Changing the laws, by moving form a rule-based to a standards-based system, is the first step. “Right now, you either apply analogue, act to a new drug or make a new law. There will always be a loophole. So you have to move to standards-base. We really need good designer drug legislation reform.”

The second step is that get the public health message across that synthetic cannabinoids can kill. “Science has a poor understanding of how these drugs will affect you,” says Lapoint, “and the public has an even poorer understanding. People think ‘oh it’s just weed, just fake marijuana.’ Clearly the safety perception is way off. Let parents know, let kids know – this is not the same thing. You are experimenting with unknown compounds. You’re being a guinea pig. It’s not the same chemical, even among same brand. Medically, these drugs are a world of difference from THC.”

The last step, he says, is to continue the legalization discussion. Some states are leading the way. “You have to ask if you’re pushing people towards the scarier thing? The answer is ‘yes.’ It’s like prohibition where people made bathtub gin with methanol. We know people are going to use it. No athlete, soldier, student, or parolee wants to test positive for THC. So they just go to the head shop and get the ‘legal’ kind.”

Of course, it’s not legal at all, and it can lead to irreversible health problems and death. Whether legalization of natural marijuana is the solution isn’t totally clear. But remind your friends or kids that being a human subject in an uncontrolled synthetic drug experiment is just stupid. “This was never intended to be used in people,” says Lapoint. “It even says on the label, ‘Not for human consumption.’ Ironically, that’s the only accurate thing on the label. This is [not]marijuana. It should not be thought of like marijuana. We have to get this out there: Its effects are serious. It’s a totally different drug.”    28th August 2014

An Arbroath dad has told how he fears for his son’s life after the teen was hospitalised three times through using legal highs. Derek Taylor, 51, is scared to let son Andrew, 19, out of the house because the youngster keeps buying legal highs and has collapsed on three occasions.

Each time, Derek has received the nightmare call from medics telling him his son has been rushed to Ninewells Hospital to help him recover. Derek says Andrew used to socialise with Michael McKay, 33, who died earlier this month following a five-month addiction to new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Now Derek is worried that his son will end up having a similar fate.

He said: “It’s three times that he has had to be taken to Ninewells. “It happened twice in about a week and then about six months later it happened again.

“I can’t stop him using legal highs, but you can always tell when he has been, as his nose is red and he’s sniffing a lot. I’m worried he is going to die. It’s on my mind all the time when he goes out with his pals. He’s 19 and if he keeps using them we’re going to put him out.

“We’ve got to the stage now where he has to be home at a certain time otherwise the door will be locked and he won’t get in, because we know what he’s doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love him — but I think it’s a total waste that they have to use an ambulance for him when there’s people out there with serious medical problems.”

Derek, who owns breakdown and recovery service Phone a Tow, says his son buys legal highs from an Angus shop. Now Derek insists action must be taken to shut similar retailers down before it’s too late.

He said: “I’m totally against the shop and the drugs themselves.I think the use of drugs is always wrong unless it’s for genuine medical reasons. The shop needs to be shut down as soon as possible.

And it’s not being used by just a few people. I drive past the shop a lot and there are people going in and out all the time. It’s people of all ages that use it. It’s not just youngsters.”

Source: 30th August 2014

Since the premiere of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary “Weed” back in August, the general public has quickly come to understand the miraculous healing power of cannabidiol, or CBD.

The political perception of medical marijuana changed forever when parents saw little Charlotte Figi, the girl with intractable epilepsy, go from hundreds of seizures a week to just one or two, thanks to CBD treatments.

But that change in perception isn’t a good one.

For now there are two types of medical marijuana – CBD-Only and “euphoric marijuana”, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calls medical marijuana that contains THC.

Just as “We’re Patients, Not Criminals” cast non-patients as criminals, the lobbying for these new CBD-Only laws relies heavily on pointing out that CBD is a “medicine that doesn’t get you high”, which casts THC at best as a medicine with an undesirable side effect and at worst as not a medicine but a drug of abuse.

This is a disaster both politically and medically; let’s begin with the former.

Politically, whole plant medical marijuana (the kind with THC in it) began in 1996 in California and from that point, it took eleven years before there were a dozen whole plant medical marijuana states in America.

CBD-Only medical marijuana began in March in Utah and from that point, it’s taken only four months to put us on the brink of a dozen CBD-Only medical marijuana states.

Also consider that of those first dozen whole plant states, eight of them were passed by citizen ballot initiative.

All twelve of the CBD-Only laws were passed by state legislatures, often by unanimous or near-unanimous votes.

Every legislature that has taken up the issue of CBD-Only medical marijuana has seen the legislation fly through the committees and both chambers (except Georgia, and that state was only derailed by some parliamentary shenanigans by one legislator).

Take North Carolina this week as an example.  On Tuesday, a committee of the North Carolina House of Representatives cancelled a meeting to discuss a CBD-Only bill.  No rescheduled date for the meeting was announced.

Local newspapers on Wednesday posted headlines that the bill’s passage was unlikely.

The Senate wasn’t likely to pass the bill in this short session that ends next week.

There would be no good reason for the House to move forward with the bill.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the meeting was suddenly rescheduled and the CBD-Only bill passed unanimously.  This morning (Thursday) the bill was heard by a second committee and passed immediately.  This afternoon it was heard and amended on the House floor where it passed 111-2.   It now awaits passage by the state Senate.

By the end of this week, it seems North Carolina could become the 12th CBD-Only state, joining Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri (awaiting governor’s signature), New York (governor’s executive order), South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Why are legislators so fast to pass these CBD-Only bills?  It’s fair to assume politicians are moved by the plight of epileptic children.

With CBD-Only, there’s no downside of being the guy or gal who voted for legalizing something that “gets you high”.   But even so, how do these bills move so fast and garner little to no opposition?  Because CBD-Only bills are political cover.

Voting for the CBD-Only bill allows the politicians to say they’re sympathetic to the plight of sick people and want to help patients get any medicine that will ease their suffering.

But they can also still play the “tough on drugs” game and maintain their support from law enforcement and prison lobbies.  Their vote garners headlines that a politician formerly considered “anti-medical marijuana” has “changed his mind” or “altered her stance” on medical marijuana.

Best of all, it gets the sick kids and their parents out of the legislative galleries and off the evening news.  For the politicians in these conservative states, it makes the medical marijuana issue go away, or at least puts the remaining advocates in the “we want the marijuana that gets you high” frame where they are more easily dismissed.

Medically, the CBD-Only laws are also a disaster.

Cannabidiol is just one constituent of cannabis and by itself, it doesn’t work as well as it does with the rest of the plant.   Dr. Raphael Machoulem, the Israeli researcher who discovered THC (the cannabinoid that “gets you high”), called it “the entourage effect”, the concept of many cannabinoids and other constituents working in concert, synergistically.

To make an overly-simple analogy, it’s as if we discovered oranges have vitamin C in them, but banned oranges completely and only allowed people with scurvy to eat vitamin C pills.    Yes, those pills can help you if you’re vitamin deficient, but any nutritionist will tell you eating the whole orange will not only allow your body to absorb the vitamin C better, the fiber from the orange is also good for your body, and oranges taste delicious, which makes you a little happier.  Plus, if oranges are in your diet, you’re not going to get scurvy in the first place.

The authors of these CBD-Only bills aren’t writing them for optimal medical efficacy, however, they’re writing them for political cover.

The parents treating their children in Colorado with CBD oil will tell you that it takes quite a bit of tinkering with the ratio of CBD to THC in the oil to find what works best for their child’s type of seizures.   Some of these kids need a higher dose of THC.

But the legislators write the laws mostly to ensure that the THC “that gets you high” is nearly non-existent.  The North Carolina law, for instance, mandates that the oil contains at least 10 percent CBD and less than 0.3 percent THC.

That’s a CBD:THC ratio of at least 34:1.

For comparison, an article by Pure Analytics, a California cannabis testing lab, discusses the high-CBD varietals most in demand by patients are “strains with CBD:THC ratios of 1:1, 2:1, and 20:1.”   The article explains how a breeding experiment with males and females with 2:1 ratios produced 20:1 ratio plants about one-fourth of the time.

It also describes a strain called “ACDC” that “consistently exhibited 16-20% CBD and 0.5-1% THC by weight.”

That’s one variety with a range of 16:1 to 40:1.  But you must only use the ones that are 34:1 or higher.

In another indicator that politicians are more interested in political cover than helping sick kids, many of these laws are written with no mechanism for in-state production and distribution of the CBD oil.  Some expressly protect the parent who goes out of state to acquire the oil (likely from Colorado) and brings it back home.

So parents are given hope for their kids, but they have to go to Colorado, establish three months residency to qualify for a medical marijuana card, clear the hurdles necessary to get their child signed up for the card, purchase the high-CBD oil, break Colorado law by taking it out of state, and break federal law by being an interstate drug trafficker.

Then back home, the parents are safe, assuming the oil they purchased in Colorado meets the CBD:THC ratio mandated by law.  The ratio listed on the label or mentioned by the provider is no guarantee.

At The Werc Shop, a cannabis testing lab in Los Angeles, an intern writes about how she was sold a strain promised to be 15 percent CBD and 0.6 percent THC, a 25:1 ratio that would be illegal in North Carolina if processed into oil.

When she ran liquid chromatography tests on the sample, it turned out to be 9.63 percent CBD to 6.11 percent THC, a 1.6:1 ratio.  CBD-Only isn’t just a political and medical disaster in the states that adopt it.

These laws also have a detrimental effect on the process of passing whole plant medical marijuana in other states.   Every medical marijuana state since California has enacted increasing restrictions on its access based on the need to keep out the illegitimate marijuana users – the ones who just want to get high.

First, qualifying conditions were restricted.  Then, home cultivation of marijuana was eliminated.

Now, medical marijuana laws are being debated and passed that ban all marijuana smoking and allow no access to the plant itself, just pills, oils, and tinctures.

Thus, it is no surprise that as Wisconsin, New York, and Florida are hotly debating and likely to pass whole plant medical marijuana laws, the legislatures and governors of those two states rushed to pass CBD-Only laws first.

It’s reminiscent of then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rushing to sign a marijuana decriminalization bill in summer of 2010 to take the talking point of California arrests for personal possession away from Prop 19′s campaign to legalize marijuana.

Every press conference and public debate about the CBD-Only bills will emphasize “it doesn’t have the THC that gets you high”, forcing whole plant advocates into a defense of THC’s medical efficacy in spite of the “high” even more than they’re already forced to.

This is why any fight to allow patients to grow whole plant medical marijuana with the high-inducing THC in it must now pivot to the support of all adults’ right to grow marijuana if they want to get high.

Every new restriction on medical marijuana, whole plant or CBD-Only, arises from the perceived need to keep the healthy high-seekers out of the medical marijuana.

Eventually, pharmaceutical companies will perfect the CBD:THC ratios and dosages in sprays, tinctures, and inhalers that will surpass the consistency and efficacy of the plant with its natural variety.

Those companies will be glad to supply the 34:1 CBD oil North Carolina requires and whatever ratio any other state requires, for a hefty profit, of course.

Source: Russ Belville  June 23, 2014  

President Obama visited Denver this week, was offered marijuana, and laughed.  His administration made possible the open marketing and use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state by directing that federal law not be enforced. The president is joined by Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul in supporting marijuana legalization. As Clinton recently told CNN, “On recreational marijuana, states are the laboratories of democracy. We (are) experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is.”

There is no indication that Obama is really paying attention to what he has done in Colorado. During our recent visit to the state we found no one is measuring this “experiment” at all. Even more troubling, if this were truly an experiment, the impact of this “laboratory” is on human subjects, many of whom—Colorado adolescents, communities in neighboring states—were hardly approached for “informed consent.”  Nor did citizens we talked to vote for what they see happening to them now.

To get the ballot amendment passed, promises were made to the residents of Colorado. The marijuana market would be tightly monitored, and strictly regulated, “from seed to sale.” There were assurances of no underage youth involvement, no blatant advertising to kids, no interstate trafficking, or black-market criminal cartels running operations. All transactions would be regulated, controlled, and assessed.

But none of that “assessing” is actually happening. And as we learned from a first-hand visit to Colorado this month, there is ample, clear, and disturbing evidence that each of those promised conditions is being violated, with impunity.

We learned that legalization has encouraged soaring levels of potency as new forms of the drug have appeared in edible candies, butane-extracted cannabis oils, in vaporizers used at school desks, undetected. The impact on society? Nobody knows, as nobody is measuring.

Are the underage getting the drug in greater numbers? One public school administrator told us that he is attending increasing numbers of private, disciplinary hearings for twelve-year olds who are daily marijuana users. Denver is awash with marijuana that is advertised as having a potency of three times or more the national average—which is already almost three times stronger today than it was in days of Woodstock. Potent, cheap THC gummy bears with hallucinogenic effects are advertised in newspapers, featuring cartoon characters such as Fred Flintstone.

On our visit we met with community leaders, educators, law enforcement personnel, and researchers at the University of Colorado medical center. They are the ones assembling the evidence from the front lines, from schools, hospitals, burn centers, and treatment facilities. A portrait is emerging of considerable, and rising, damage. And yet no comprehensive study is

being undertaken. No surveillance, evaluation, or even plotting a trajectory against a prior baseline.

Governor Hickenlooper’s office intends to conduct a “gap analysis,” trying to determine what information is missing in order to conduct a proper study, and whether there are data sufficient to learn anything. But aren’t these steps one takes before you plunge? As one parent put it, “you don’t want to have the only experiment be your own son.” People said that the state was “hurtling forward, with no one driving.” Meanwhile, legalization advocates are already proclaiming that all is well.

The black market thrives. According to the director of the Rocky Mountain trafficking center, “By legalizing marijuana in Colorado, we have become the black market for about 40 other states that we can document. So instead of eliminating it, we have become it. We are also the black market for those under twenty-one.”

Is any of this really unexpected? Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, was recently asked about legalization by USA Today. He warned, “We don’t know a lot about the things we wish we did.” Risks of IQ loss?  “Perhaps it would be better if, before we plunged into (legalization) there was a little bit more recognition of that particular consequence.” Increased cancer risk? “We don’t know. Nobody’s done that study.”

Advocates rushed right over these gaping holes in our knowledge. Profits beckoned, and surely tax revenue. Well, actually, tax revenues are well below those promised, but the profits—and the costs—are real.

What we saw in Colorado has the markings—the steeply rising curve—of a drug use epidemic. Epidemics subside, but after the outbreak, the populace often settles into a new normal, at higher levels of the disease. The damage is difficult to reverse, and of those caught in the outbreak, not all return. Are other states going to follow this leap?

If the president believes that there is some important medical and societal “experiment” going on with legal marijuana, he is simply not paying attention. The evidence to date is stunning. It is time to stop pretending otherwise.

Source: July 10, 2014

(CNN) — This week, Washington state opened marijuana stores for the first time. And these stores don’t just carry your father’s kind of weed. In addition to highly potent cigarettes — which are much stronger than those some people might remember from Woodstock — stores are also selling super-strength, pot-infused cookies, candies, sodas, vapor and wax concentrates.

Time will tell what the effects will be, but the state is not the first place to implement such a policy. Colorado started to sell marijuana six months ago. When President Barack Obama stopped by a Denver bar on Tuesday night, it comes as no surprise that someone offered him weed.  Colorado’s experience with pot legalization can hardly be called a success. In fact, it should be considered a warning for the residents of Washington.

Special-interest “Big Tobacco”-like groups and businesses have ensured that marijuana is widely promoted, advertised and commercialized in Colorado. As a result, calls to poison centers have skyrocketed, incidents involving kids going to school with marijuana candy and vaporizers seem more common, and explosions involving butane hash oil extraction have risen. Employers are reporting more workplace incidents involving marijuana use, and deaths have been attributed to ingesting marijuana cookies and food items.  So much for the old notion that “pot doesn’t kill.”

Marijuana companies, like their predecessors in the tobacco industry, are determined to keep lining their pockets.

Indeed, legalization has come down to one thing: money. And it’s not money for the government — Colorado has only raised a third of the amount of tax revenue they have projected — it’s money for this new industry and its shareholders.

Open Colorado newspapers and magazines on any given day and you will find pages of marijuana advertisements, coupons and cartoons promoting greater and greater highs. The marijuana industry is making attractive a wide selection of marijuana-related products such as candies, sodas, ice cream and cartoon-themed paraphernalia and vaporizers, which are undoubtedly appealing to children and teens.

As Al Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center recently said, “We’re seeing hallucinations, they become sick to their stomachs, they throw up, they become dizzy and very anxious.” Bronstein reported that in 2013, there were 126 calls concerning adverse reactions to marijuana. From January to April this year, the center receive 65 calls. And, since Colorado expanded marijuana stores for medical users, peer-reviewed research has found a major upsurge in stoned driving-related deaths (that is not surprising since marijuana intoxication doubles the risk of a car crash).

It is little wonder that every major public health association, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Society of Addiction Medicine oppose the legalization of marijuana.

The scientific verdict is that marijuana can be addictive and dangerous.

Despite denials by special interest groups and marijuana businesses, the drug’s addictiveness is not debatable: 1 in 6 kids who ever try marijuana will become addicted to the drug, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many baby boomers have a hard time understanding this simply because today’s marijuana can be so much stronger than the marijuana of the past.

In fact, more than 450,000 incidents of emergency room admissions related to marijuana occur every year, and heavy marijuana use in adolescence is connected to an 8-point reduction of IQ later in life, irrespective of alcohol use. As if our national mental illness crisis needed more fuel, marijuana users also have a six times higher risk of schizophrenia and are significantly more likely to development other psychotic illnesses. It is no wonder that health groups such as the National Alliance of Mental Illness are increasingly concerned about marijuana use and legalization. That does not mean we need to arrest our way out of a marijuana problem.

We should reform criminal justice practices and emphasize prevention, early intervention and treatment when necessary. But we do not need to legalize — and thus commercialize and advertise — marijuana to implement these reforms.

The only people better off under legalization are the big companies that stand to profit from sales of marijuana. And we can be sure they will get even richer while public health and safety suffers.

Source:  July 10th 2014

UK’s youth ‘legal high’ use is the highest in Europe. The drugs were linked to 97 deaths in 2012 – and could top 400 in 2016 Think tank urges punishment for high street shops selling   dangerous drugs.

Deaths linked to ‘legal highs’ could overtake those linked to heroin by 2016, according to experts on addiction. 

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) claims hospital admissions are soaring and forecasts that deaths linked to the drugs, sold with names such as Clockwork Orange’, ‘Bliss’ and ‘Mary Jane’, could be higher than heroin in just two years.  The CSJ says many legal highs are sold in ‘head shops’, of which there are close to 250 in the UK.

It wants to see the introduction of a scheme similar to one in Ireland which made it easier for police and courts to close down head shops that were thought to be selling NPS. This resulted in the number of the shops dropping from more than 100 to less than 10.

Despite small reductions in the number of people using heroin and those drinking every week, the think-tank says the costs of addiction are rising, with alcohol-related admissions to hospital doubling in a decade.

The rise of ‘legal highs’ – or new psychoactive substances (NPS) – were linked to 97 deaths in 2012.

Hospital admissions due to legal highs rose by 56 per cent between 2009-12, according to new CSJ data. The think-tank forecasts that on current trends deaths related to the drugs could be higher than heroin by 2016 – at around 400 deaths per year.  The report also calls for greater investment in the clampdown of online ‘legal high’ sales. 

The problem was highlighted in August last year when Adam Hunt, 18, died after taking the psychoactive substance AMT at his home in Southampton, Hampshire, after purchasing it from a website.

An inquest heard how the keen football fan had told a friend he planned to take the drug, which he believed had the same effects as ecstasy, but died four days later.

A ‘treatment tax’ should be added to the cost of alcohol in shops to fund a new generation of rehabilitation centres and stem the tide of Britain’s addiction problem, the report recommends.


The CSJ says many legal highs are sold in ‘head shops’, of which there are close to 250 in the UK. File picture of a head shop in Dublin 

It is also highly critical of the Government’s flagship drug and alcohol prevention programme, FRANK, which it describes as ‘shamefully inadequate’, noting that a recent survey found that only one in ten children would call the ‘FRANK’ helpline to talk about drugs.

The CSJ also says the NHS, Public Health England and local authorities risk ‘giving up’ on many addicts.   ‘Addiction rips into families, makes communities less safe and entrenches poverty,’ said CSJ Director Christian Guy.

‘For years full recovery has been the preserve of the wealthy – closed off to the poorest people and to those with problems who need to rely on a public system. We want to break this injustice wide open.’

The report says 300,000 people in England are addicted to opiates and/or crack, 1.6 million are dependent on alcohol and one in seven children under the age of one live with a substance-abusing parent.

Every year drugs cost society around £15 billion and alcohol £21 billion.

Researchers say residential treatment – the most effective form of abstinence-based treatment – has been continually cut and are calling for this to be reversed.  A ‘treatment tax’ should be added to off-licence alcohol sales to fund rehab for people with alcohol and drug addictions, the CSJ said.

Under the scheme, a levy of a penny per unit would be added by the end of the next Parliament to fund recovery services to the tune of £1.1billion over the five years.  It would be spent solely on setting up a network of abstinence-based rehabilitation centres and funding sessions within them.

Last month ministers called the rise in the use of legal highs a ‘national emergency’.

MPs spoke out after several leading UK festivals, including Glastonbury and Bestival, banned the sale of the drugs, and called for more action to be taken against a problem blighting communities around the country.

Democratic Unionist Jim Shannon described the festivals’ involvement as proof that there is concern ‘at every level’ about the consequences of new manufactured chemical highs that have not been banned.

He told a Westminster Hall debate: ‘There is concern at every level about what legal highs do. It’s fantastic to see such influential festivals getting involved in the campaign to rid our country of these potentially fatal substances, but more is required.’

Meanwhile, Labour frontbencher Toby Perkins described how legal highs had made a part of his Chesterfield constituency town centre a ‘no-go area’ as they fuel anti-social behaviour among teenagers who use the drugs.  Mr Perkins claimed that head shops are ‘mocking the law’ and called for councils to be given more power to deal with problems in their areas.

He described the problem as a ‘national emergency’, saying: ‘The truth is that some retailers are mocking the law, laughing at powerless regulators, while visiting misery and mayhem on our communities.’

Source:   17th August 2014

Jodie Muir, 16, is thought to have taken the drug at a house party in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire, on Friday night, attended by about 50 people. She was unwell when she returned home and died several hours later, prompting a police inquiry. 

Last night, a senior officer warned of the dangers of the drug, which is rapidly  regaining popularity. However, her mother claims the teenager did not take the drug and died of heart failure as a result of Long QT syndrome, a rare heart condition that can cause fainting and arrhythmia. Jodie’s death appears to be the latest in a series of drug-related fatalities in recent months, caused by ecstasy or so-called ‘legal highs’ that replicate the effects of drugs.

These new substances are not yet controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Drugs misuse expert Professor Neil McKeganey said: ‘The growing number of deaths should be a wake-up call to the Government, just as it should be to young people in Scotland.’

Jodie is understood to have taken an ecstasy-type tablet at the party on Friday night. She returned home feeling unwell at around 5am and died several hours later.Last night, shocked school friends laid flowers at Eastbank Academy, Glasgow, where she had been a pupil. Police yesterday issued an urgent plea to speak to anyone who attended the party.A post-mortem examination has been carried out, but police said further tests were needed to establish the cause of death.

Chief Superintendent Ciorstan Shearer of Police Scotland said: ‘My sympathies are with the girl’s family. We have specially trained officers providing assistance and support to them at this sad time. ‘As it has been suggested that she may have taken some form of ecstasy-type drug, it is vital that we trace the other people who were also at the party to ensure that  they are safe and well. 

‘I would urge anyone who was at this party and has taken drugs and is feeling unwell, or knows of someone who took drugs at the party, to attend or contact their local hospital for treatment or advice.’ She added that it was ‘a very painful and upsetting time for the girl’s family and friends and Police Scotland will do all that we can to support her family’. 

Later, Chief Supt Shearer said: ‘At this time we know that there were around 40 to 50 other teenagers at this party in Rutherglen and we have managed to speak to a significant number of them.  A post-mortem examination has been carried out, but police said  further tests were needed to establish the cause of death

‘It is vital, however, that those who have not already spoken to police come forward as soon as possible, first and foremost to ensure that they are safe and well, but also because they may be in a position to provide vital information to assist the ongoing investigation.’

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde consultant in public health medicine Dr Anne Scoular said: ‘Many drugs are unregulated and no one knows what they contain or the effects they may have. People offered drugs should think very carefully before taking them. ‘I would urge anyone who has taken drugs and experiences symptoms suchas a high temperature, aggression and muscle pains or begins to feel unwell or feels a more intense high to seek immediate medical help.’


In February, clubber Regane MacColl, 17, of Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, fell ill on a night out at the Arches in Glasgow and died in hospital after taking a Mortal Kombat pill, an ecstasy-type substance. 

Helen Henderson, 19, died in April after taking a ‘meow meow’ legal high tablet during a marathon 36-hour party at her home in Renfrew. She is also believed to have swallowed horse tranquilliser ketamine before collapsing on a bed where she was found by friends.

In 1997, 13-year-old Andrew Woodcock of Bellshill, Lanarkshire, became the youngest Scot to die after taking Ecstasy.

There has been a 15-fold rise in the number of seizures of ecstasy-type drugs in the space of a year, while nine people died after consuming them in 2012 – up from none in 2010. Scottish Government figures show 157,900 seizures of individual ecstasy-type  tablets took place in 2011-12, compared with 10,000 in 2010-11. 

Drug experts at Police Scotland said ecstasy ‘gradually fell out of favour in the mid-1990s’. But in November 2010, it was noticed that it was beginning to return. Deaths linked to ‘legal highs’ could overtake those linked to heroin by 2016, according to experts on addiction.  The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) claims hospital admissions are soaring and forecasts that deaths linked to the drugs could be higher than heroin in just two years.The rise of ‘legal highs’ – or new psychoactive substances (NPS) – were linked to 97 deaths in 2012.

Hospital admissions due to legal highs rose by 56 per cent between 2009-12, according to new CSJ data. The think-tank forecasts that on current trends deaths related to the drugs could be higher than heroin by 2016 – at around 400 deaths per year. 


Ecstasy came into widespread use in the 1980s, when taking it was linked to raves and dance music. Its effects include euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others and diminished anxiety and depression.

In the U.S., more than 12 million people have taken it. But its use has been linked to damage to the central nervous system. Research in recent years has suggested that long-term changes to emotional states and behaviour have been triggered by consumption of the drug, which affects chemical receptors in the brain.

The synthetic stimulant, for example, triggers the release of dopamine, the chemical that controls the nervous system, producing a massive increase in heart rate and blood pressure. This can prove fatal.

Medical studies also report that one in four people have suffered unpleasant side-effects, such as extreme paranoia and insomnia. Campaigners believe that ecstasy poses a real risk of triggering brain damage. They have argued that it can induce memory loss, decrease cognitive performance and has long-lasting effects on behaviour.

Read more: 18th August 2014

Filed under: Ecstasy,Health,Legal Highs :

Two new drugs are detected each week across Europe with researchers trying to alert the public to the dangers of new chemicals. Young people have died “horrific deaths” from taking multiple drugs, a senior member of the Forensic Science service in Northern Ireland has said. Twenty people have died in the last year from drugs known as “speckled cherries”. Many more have died from taking a cocktail of other substances.

Forensic expert Peter Barker said it was time for an anti-drugs campaign along the lines of road safety adverts. “We’ve seen some really horrific deaths where people have killed themselves after taking multiple drugs,” he said. “I think we need to be much more stark in the message we send to the public – adverts similar to those we’ve seen in road safety campaigns.” The forensic labs are based in Carrickfergus and they use state of the art equipment to carry out toxicology reports after someone has died.

‘Bucket chemistry’

Mr Barker said so-called legal highs are presenting significant challenges. “We call it bucket chemistry – these drugs are developed in back alley garages,” he added. “They haven’t had clinical trials and no one knows what is in them. They are not safe for people to take, even if they have taken a similar compound before.”

About two new drugs are detected each week across Europe and that means researchers are always trying to stay ahead of the game to alert the public to the dangers of new chemicals. They have the same machines used by the Olympics dope-testers – cutting edge technology that can detect tiny amounts of different substances.

At a recent inquest, Coroner John Leckey described the recent drugs deaths as being similar to having a serial killer on the loose. Mr Barker said the deaths were extremely unpleasant: “They can cause convulsions, palpitations and heart attacks.

“Children do need to be educated about the dangers.”

Source: 21st August 2014

Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University have revealed for the first time the serious long-term health risks associated with Benzylpiperazine (BZP), dubbed the “new ecstasy”.
BZP was a popular legal high before it was reclassified as a controlled substance in December 2009. According to Dean Ames, the Forensic Science Service’s drugs intelligence adviser, the designer drug has replaced MDMA as the main ingredient in ecstasy tablets.
Dean Ames said:
“It’s a rare drug now, MDMA. There are hundreds of thousands of tablets in circulation in the UK that look like ecstasy tablets, but which actually contain piperazines (a class of compounds that includes BZP).

The tablets are still being sold as ecstasy and because they have an effect, young people may think they are taking ecstasy.”
Anglia Ruskin’s research, led by Professor Mike Cole and Dr Beverley Vaughan, is the first of its kind to examine the health implications of taking piperazines and will help to educate medical staff as to the most serious symptoms associated with their ingestion, namely liver and kidney damage.
“The market for and abuse of clandestinely synthesised designer drugs has increased significantly over the last decade and this has been accompanied by an increase in the number of reports of death and serious illnesses related to the ingestion of these substances,” said Professor Cole, whose preliminary findings were presented at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ annual conference.

“Before our research there had been no systematic study of the toxicity of these drugs and this is needed if we are to treat drug users effectively and inform people of the potential hazards associated with taking them.”
The data produced by Professor Cole and Dr Vaughan provides clear evidence of the cellular cytotoxicity of BZP and its synthetic by-products at levels likely to occur following their ingestion. It also indicates that in general the liver, the site of detoxification for the body, is most sensitive to the actions of these drugs.
“Cells derived from the liver and kidney were exposed to BZP – its starting materials and its impurities – at concentrations which reflected a dose for a user of these drugs. The cells were examined to determine whether significant changes had occurred, including apoptosis (cell suicide) and necrosis (cell murder),” explained Professor Cole.

“It was found that BZP itself is toxic to the kidney whilst the starting material, piperazine hexahydrate, showed toxicity in only the liver. In general the study showed that water soluble drugs, impurities and mixtures were toxic to liver cells, whilst compounds and mixtures which are fat soluble are toxic to the kidney.

“Mixtures of drugs and impurities, synthesised to reflect street samples, produced a variety of toxic effects depending upon the composition of the mixture – but all were significantly toxic. The work is important because it begins to provide an explanation of why people who have taken these drugs exhibit the symptoms that they do in A&E rooms.

“It also shows that different batches of drugs will have different effects because of the different proportions of drug and impurity in the material, and that users are exposed to toxic mixtures of drugs for which both the short and longer-term effects will not be known and cannot easily be predicted.”

Addictions expert Sarah Graham, who is a spokesperson for the Government drugs helpline FRANK, said: “BZP is not safe – it is an entirely synthetic party drug which mimics the effects of ecstasy and speed. It is a stimulant which can raise your blood pressure and may lead to a fit or heart attack. You never know what you are getting because the chemical make up continually changes and mixing the drug with alcohol can increase the risks.”

Source: May 2011

The last few months have seen a dramatic increase in use of –
and media interest in – ‘legal highs’, especially mephedrone or ‘miaow/meow’.
David Gilliver takes a look at a legislative minefield

When the government announced its intention last year to ban a range
of ‘legal highs’ and make them class C drugs, Release accused it of
‘chasing its tail’ in an attempt to ‘stay ahead of the demand for drugs
and those who supply them’ (DDN, 7 September 2009, page 4).
The chemicals were BZP and related piperazines, GBL and a related chemical
and the synthetic cannabinoids used to make smoking products like Spice.
Release’s accusation seemed to be vindicated very quickly, however. Anecdotal
evidence soon started to filter through about a sharp increase in use of the
stimulant mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone), known as ‘miaow’. After the drug was implicated in the death of a young woman in Brighton late last year, there was a rash of mephedrone stories in the press, followed – a couple of weeks later – by stories about how that coverage had led to a huge boost in sales, with many online suppliers selling out altogether. Luci Hammond is a young person’s alcohol worker at Brighton-based service ruok? She started to notice a very sharp increase in miaow use in the second half of last year. ‘It just hit very quickly,’ she says. ‘We started getting reports of it being used by young people and we had parents and professionals asking questions about it, but since then we’ve had a lot of young people coming to us themselves.’

There has been much talk about the drug’s growing use in clubs, with people
turning to it because of the poor quality of available ecstasy and cocaine – as little as 2 per cent purity in the latter case (DDN, 21 September 2009, page 5).
However, what Hammond has found – and what the press has been quick to pick
up on – is the worrying popularity of the drug among children. So far, her youngest client to have used miaow is 12. The majority are 14 and up, but ‘14 is common’ she says. Where are they taking it – presumably they can’t get into nightclubs? ‘The majority of them can’t, but there are under-18 nights where they use it, as well as at parties and out on the streets. They’ll sit in parks and cemeteries, so they’re putting themselves at risk just through the location.’
And what about other legal highs? ‘This is the big one. We’re hearing bits about
BZP and Spice but nothing compared to this.’ John Ramsey runs the TICTAC drug-testing database at St. George’s, University of London, and has seen a dramatic increase in the use of legal highs. ‘We analyse the contents of club amnesty bins and we test purchase stuff from websites – that’s how we come to be pretty up-to-date on new and emerging compounds,’ he says. ‘We’ve been doing this for ten or 15 years and at one time it was really unusual to find anything new. Now we find something new virtually weekly. We go to Glastonbury each year and there were huge amounts of mephedrone there last
time – there was one seizure of 120g. Two or three years ago there wasn’t any.’
Legal highs are available in ‘head’ shops but anecdotal evidence – and the
scale of use being reported – would suggest that most people are buying them
quickly and easily online. Indeed, many of the press mephedrone stories have
practically been guides to getting hold of the drug, couched in obligatory
disapproving language. ‘If you go online and put in ‘legal highs’ you get hundreds of results,’ says Renato Masetti, training coordinator at Suffolk DAAT, who puts on conference workshops to essentially it’s an online phenomenon – you’ve got comments, forums, you can write in and say which one was good and which wasn’t, just like on Amazon. There’s a whole community out there – the online forums have gone mad.’

But presumably most 13 and 14-year-olds aren’t buying the drugs online,
unless they’re using their parents’ credit cards? ‘A lot of our young people are
getting it from friends, but we’re hearing of dealers specialising in miaow and
selling it to school-age children,’ says Hammond. ‘They’re buying it in bulk online,
possibly cutting it, and selling it on. We’ve also heard reports of young people
dealing because they think it’s risk-free, a legal substance. At the start the reports were “you get no comedown, it’s all legal”. It was seen as pure – everything sounded lovely. Now it’s being used more frequently we’ve discovered it’s not so lovely.’ She’s started to see behaviour change in her clients, like paranoia, aggression and anxiety, and even signs of dependency. ‘We’ve heard about shakes and poor co-ordination with withdrawal,’ she says. How widespread is the problem in Brighton? ‘I would say in terms of speaking to young people, it’s probably about five a day,’ she says. ‘One young person will tell us that their friends are doing it, or a teacher will ring up and say that the whole class is talking about it. I’m a young person’s alcohol worker but almost all my clients have tried miaow, even the ones who’ve always said “I’d never do drugs”,
because it isn’t considered a dangerous drug. This is the message we’re trying to
get across – that it does seem to be a dangerous drug.’ How are they taking it? ‘Most are snorting, which is what we’re trying to advise against – if you are going to use it we’d rather it was bombed [swallowed]. We’ve had people smoking it as well, in a bong or cone. But it’s really painful to snort, and we’re hearing of nosebleeds that recur for days afterwards, as well as spinal and joint ache. And miaow isn’t enough now – they want to do it with ketamine or acid or nitrous oxide. There seems to be a cocktail culture out there.’

Clubbers of the ’80s and ’90s were sometimes described as the ‘guinea pig
generation’, as no one really knew what effects long-term ecstasy use might have. But with mephedrone and other legal highs – anecdotal chat room accounts aside – there really is no information, because there’s been no research. ‘How can there be – who’s going to pay for it?’ says John Ramsey. ‘For example the cannabinoids in things like Spice are completely untested and yet they clearly work – the legislation has got to control about 240 of the things. Who can research 240 new chemical compounds?’ Indeed even the names seem something of a moveable feast, with a variety of drugs passed off as miaow depending on who’s selling it and in what part of the country. ‘There are fewer dealers in the chain and there does seem to be some evidence of people selling allegedly illegal drugs which when they’re tested are found to be legal, so you have this fascinating phenomenon of the illegal market pinching from the legal market and pretending it’s illegal – because people think illegal stuff is better,’ says Masetti. ‘We’ve been told that miaow can be made up of different compounds, and it’s also being mixed with stuff now,’ says Hammond. ‘It started off a few months ago at £15 per gram and now it’s £3.50. You can get pure mephedrone but you don’t really know from mix to mix what you’re getting.’ However the miaow John Ramsey has tested has been consistent. ‘Every time we’ve analysed it it’s been 4-methylmethcathinone, and there appear to be vast amounts of it about. I get a lot of calls from police officers who are being asked what they’re going to do about it. Of course the answer is “nothing”, because it’s not illegal.’

The legal status does really appear to mean that many people think the drugs
are safe and harmless. ‘We’ve had parents saying “we’re telling our kids not to do
illegal things” and they’re saying “but it’s not illegal” says Hammond. ‘I don’t think many teenagers would think that they could buy something from a high street head shop that’s going to cause them to end up in an A&E department,’ says Ramsey. ‘They wouldn’t think people would be allowed to sell things that would do that.’ And A&E, it seems, is not an exaggeration. Luci Hammond visits regularly and whereas before her clients were there through drink or illegal drugs, now it’s often miaow. ‘We’re starting to see people coming in with miaow overdoses – anxiety, excessive aggression, disturbed sleep, being sick. One parent brought her child in because he was screaming and shaking in his sleep and they put that down to a miaow overdose. One client did it at a party and kept collapsing – his knees would just buckle underneath him.’ ‘I’ve seen a couple of forums where there was talk about it causing blue knees and blue elbows,’ adds John Ramsey. ‘That means it could be an inhibitor of muscle metabolism – that’s not beyond the realms of possibility.’ Does he think the government is really chasing its tail when it comes to legislating on legal highs? Won’t the chemists just come up with a slightly different compound? ‘To some extent, but the new legislation includes piperazines – BZP and that whole family – and it is proper generic classification, not a list of compounds, so it should cut off the piperazines as a family. While there’s always scope for somebody to innovate something that hasn’t been foreseen, it makes it much more difficult to do that. But obviously the legislation completely ignores the cathinones, like mephedrone, which haven’t even been risk-assessed yet. The alternative is to do nothing, but you’ve got teenagers buying chemicals which are completely untested for safety and using them as drugs – you’ve got to try and prevent that.’ ‘It’s an interesting challenge,’ says Renato Masetti. ‘I think we need to be creative about other responses, rather than just straight legislation. You’ve got the example of GHB and GBL – GHB was made class C a while back and yet you found the same amount of seizures of GHB as GBL. The fact that you’ve classified doesn’t seem to have made much difference. Legislation is a very heavy hammer, and it’s too clumsy with chemicals that can be altered quickly. Legislation becomes really difficult because if it’s too broad it captures useful products in industry.’ He’s also unconvinced that people are switching to these drugs on a large scale because of the declining quality of cocaine and ecstasy. ‘That upshares/downshares has been going on for ages – purity rates go up and down. I think to some extent this
is probably a separate thing – experimental people who don’t wish to break the law and are looking for legal alternatives. This happened years ago when there was a big ‘herbal highs’ thing, but they were awful, caffeine-based things. I think people have been quite surprised this time – they’ve found that actually they’re effective.’

In the myriad of online forums, the effects of mephedrone are often described
as a kind of mix of amphetamine and MDMA, but with a shorter-lasting effect than the latter. ‘The chemical structures are based on the khat plant, but the
compounds have nothing to do with the plant – they’re modifications of a molecule derived from the plant – so from a chemical point of view you’d predict that it’s going to be a stimulant,’ says Ramsey. ‘I can’t see how it’s likely to be
empathogenic like MDMA, it’s more likely to be like amphetamine or even
methylamphetamine. But it’s never been used as a drug before so there’s no data
on its half-life, its potency or anything.’ The similarity with methylamphetamine/ methamphetamine is borne out by the behaviour of Hammond’s clients. ‘We’re hearing of people aged 14 or 15 who are doing three-day binges, seven-day binges. They’re not able to go to school and we’ve had people saying “I feel like I’m dying, I can’t stop.” We’ve had people who’ve used illegal drugs saying this is the most addictive thing they’ve ever had.’

So what’s the answer – is it better education? ‘Absolutely, but it’s a fine line
between educating and promoting,’ says Ramsey. ‘We’re used to that in the drug
field, but we do need some sort of generic education.’ What about the FRANK ‘crazy chemist’ campaign launched last year? (DDN, 5 October 2009, page 4). ‘That’s not based on any sound knowledge,’ he says. ‘Just anecdotal observations.’ ‘I’m a trainer so I’m biased but I think training is really important,’ says Masetti. ‘It’s important for drug teams to know the specifics about these drugs, but not because treatment is going to be any different from what they’re doing already – it’s more around confidence-building. I’d like to see awareness-raising in services so they can engage with these clients who don’t see themselves as traditional illegal drug users. We know very little about these drugs but because they’re synthetic mimickers that work similarly to the illegal drugs they’re mimicking, the treatments will be very similar – you don’t need to learn any special techniques. But we do need to get some research going on these drugs asap, along with general harm reduction advice.’ Late last year two members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) told The Times that the council had serious concerns about drugs like mephedrone and was proposing a more rapid system of appraisal, and the ACMD had in fact constituted a working group on cathinone compounds of which John Ramsey was a member. ‘But all of that’s collapsed now because everybody’s resigned,’ he says. Sacked ACMD chair Prof David Nutt has said his new organisation, the Independent Council on Drug Harms, plans to produce guidance on legal highs, but they will be operating outside of government (see page 4). ‘It’s definitely getting to the “something must be done” stage,’ says Ramsey. ‘It’s not going to go away, and it’s not likely to be controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act in the foreseeable future as they can’t legislate under that without ACMD.

ACMD would normally conduct a risk assessment and then recommend control or
non-control but, given the disarray ACMD seems to be in, the alternative is the
same process through the EMCDDA in Lisbon. They’ve collected information about
these compounds, and it may well be that they’ll do a risk assessment and
recommend control throughout Europe, with all member states expected to follow.’ In fact the EMCDDA has called Britain the online capital of Europe for legal highs, with 37 per cent of all retailers operating from the UK compared to just 14 per cent in the Netherlands. ‘True, but we bought some from a website that had a UK address – the credit card was debited in France and the material was shipped from New Zealand,’ says Ramsey. ‘But one thing is certain – there’s very big money in it.
Source: drinkanddrugsnews 18 January 2010

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