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New Psychoactive Substances. A Brief Insight By leigh westmore. Aims and Objectives. Definition History Availability Club Drug Policy Conclusions Q&A. N ew P sychoactive S ubstances or Legal Highs. Specifically, a legal high is a chemical which is :

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new psychoactive substances

New Psychoactive Substances

A Brief Insight By leighwestmore

aims and objectives
Aims and Objectives
  • Definition
  • History
  • Availability
  • Club Drug
  • Policy
  • Conclusions Q&A
n ew p sychoactive s ubstances or legal highs
New Psychoactive Substances or Legal Highs.
  • Specifically, a legal high is a chemical which is:

(a) not controlled by the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act;

(b) not licensed for legal use (like alcohol and tobacco);

(c) not advertised/sold – and therefore not regulated - as a medicine (Medicines Act 1968) “plant food – not for human consumption”

  • For example, use of the term ‘NPS’ allows us to avoid the confusion which currently exists in relation to drugs like mephedrone (meow/m-cat), which was banned by the UK government in April 2010 - but it is still referred to as a ‘legal high’ by some sources (notably the mass media).
  • Legal highs: uncontrolled, but can be new drugs (eg. 5-EAPB new Benzofury) or older drugs (e.g.. nitrous oxide)
  • NPS: new, but can be uncontrolled (eg. 5-EAPB) or controlled (eg. 6-APB old benzofury)
on the increase
On the Increase…………..

EMCDDA says it is struggling - 81 new psychoactive substances were seen for the first time in 2013 up from the 2012 figure of 73. A total of over 350 now being monitored.

Monitoring identified 651 websites selling “legal” – Free Samples around 250 such shops in the UK (plus an unknown number of alternative retail outlets). People move onto online sales to save money.

There were an estimated 1 900 mephedrone users entering treatment in the United Kingdom in 2011/12, with more than half of them under the age of 18. Overall less mephedrone use…..

Romania NPS was primary drug in 37% compared to 21 % heroin.

“While mephedrone can still technically be regarded as an NPS, it has become sufficiently embedded in the UK drug scene for its overall prevalence and other information to be captured by national data sets. Beyond that, there is no robust data giving a picture of patterns of NPS use across the UK” - DrugScope

recent history
Recent History

Head Shops 1990’s – Herbal highs , Salvia , Guarana, LSA,

BZP as a replacement for mdma/ecstacy from New Zealand

Legal Highs Came to public attention around 2008/09 as substances deliberately ‘designed’ to mimic the effects of controlled drugs while at the same time ‘designed’ to be outside the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Increased control of Precursor material.

Manufacturers look at Chemistry and the law


Global Trade in Drugs and Precursor materials

Experimentation by pharmaceutical companies Patents redeveloped, Medical research into Cannabinoids agonists and Neuropsychopharmacolgy into NBOMe’s Pain relief and Prescription loopholes regards Etizolam.

Dark web/smart shops

Simplicity/Paypal/bitcoin Purity, reliability

Global Capitalist markets

sub groups
Sub Groups

3 Main according to Drugscope

Stimulants. Ecstacy and MDMA replacement. Mephedrone, MPDV, NRG-1, Benzo Fury, MDAI, ethylphenidatemethiopropamine. Pills can contain multiple chemicals in various proportions, and change as and when compounds are banned. No real way of knowing content. 5-apb now 5-eapb, doses change effects change/duration etc..

Cannabinoids Most prolific NPS - Clockwork Orange, Black Mamba, Exodus Damnation, spice some can contain multiple blends of synthetics agonists, constantly changing.

SCs are 2 to 3 times more likely than cannabis to produce sympathomimetic effects (tachycardia, hypertension), and 5 times more likely to produce hallucinations – with an increased risk of seizures. “No antidote exists”

Hallucinogens; NBOMe-series. (Methoxetamine (MXE) Diphenidine, methoxphenidine)

other groups
Other Groups

Opiates – Ah 7921 banned W-15-7 and W-19, both potent µ-opioid agonists have also been seen. O-desmethyltramadol now controlled. Bromodol still available 504x potency morphine. “serenity”. Fentanyl Analogues available online Carfentanyl 0.1g – 10000 doses. Kratom can be bought on ebay.

Benzodiazepines. Phenazepam (banned) Etizolam, Diclazepam, Flubromazepam. Young people taking risks irrational decisions poly using.

Cognitive Enhancers – Racetams, Adderall, - “limitless”!!!

club drugs
Club Drugs

Drugs Controlled by the 1971 Misuse of Drugs act ………….

Easily available from European Smart shops

3-mmc!!! – 4-mmc is mephedrone….

Over 50 different Mephedrone type drugs have been produced.



Availability/Peer Pressure

  • The roundtable discussion also saw discussion of NPS issues among groups of vulnerable young people, particularly in the north east, a region of high poverty, unemployment and social deprivation. From this, a possible profile begins to emerge. That profile is of a vulnerable young person living in a socially and economically impoverished environment, too young to be on the club drug scene and with little in the way of disposal income, who now has access to easily available and (ostensibly) legal substances with which to get intoxicated. This profile has distinct echoes of the glue sniffing epidemic of the 1980s.
  • Home Office has established the Drug Early Warning System (DEWS) which aims to link various national and international partners to share information about emerging NPS trends.
  • Forensic Early Warning System (FEWS) which is concerned primarily with testing NPS via test purchasing, police seizures etc….
  • DrugWatch has been mentioned and there are plans to try and establish more localised informal networks that potentially could feed information up to a central hub (like DrugWatch) and on to bodies like the ACMD, Public Health England’s National Intelligence Network, ACPO drugs committee and other networks.
  • Wedinos - Welsh Emerging Drugs and Identification of Novel Substances
models of control
Models Of Control

New Zealand

European Laws

legislation in Ireland 2010 effectively banning head shops, much of the trade has shifted online and onto the street.

Poland Modified “consumer Protection laws” and redefined Health Policies.

Austria Uses Medicine Licence Laws protected criminalising users but stopped the retail market.

Latvia and Bulgaria; Analogue system: legislation includes a more general definition of ‘similarity in pharmacological activity’, as well as ‘similarity in chemical structure’.

  • The Psychoactive Substances Act 2013. It allows the legal sale of psychoactive substances .
  • Thursday, 8 May. All products removed, producers need to prove they are safe before sale.
  • Animal Testing
  • Party Pills – “26 million pills consumed by 400’000 consumers on 10.5 million occasions” No long term harm caused, People enjoyed them.
uk policy addictions
UK Policy addictions…
  • June 2013 - NBOMe, a related drug to the hallucinogen 2CI, and 'Benzo Fury', a related drug to ecstasy, given TCDOs.
  • July 2013 - Classification of khat, a herbal stimulant, as a Class C drug announced. (JUNE 24th)
  • December 2013 – Home Office announce that they will accept the advice of the ACMD and make NBOMe a Class A drug - 10 June 2014 alongside every other N-benzyl phenethylamine and Benzofuran Class B.
problems with nps legal highs
Problems with NPS/Legal Highs
  • Headshops/websites cannot give out information about the safer use of the drugs they sell
  • No testing/trials of risks & harms of NPS sold
  • No guarantee that different batches of same product will contain (a) same dose of drug, or (b) even same drug
  • Huge variety of NPS available, with different chemical/ trade/slang names, making drug/health service responses & research work very difficult.
  • Fear Based Mass Media
  • Twice as many people die every day as a result of alcohol than die in a whole year as a result of legal highs. This is political expediency compiled with media hysteria.
  • 17 out the 68 deaths blamed on legal highs were due to PMA and a further three linked to PMMA, substances now commonly sold as Ecstasy which have been outlawed in the UK since 1977. Only 11 actually attributed to NPS alone. Included were DNP sliming aid and anabolic steroids.
  • The Drugs may be changing but the needs of service users are not
  • Involve them in planning. How do we support users?
  • More Powerful drugs used at earlier age
  • Clarity on definitions
  • UK law not working
  • More Analogues of analogues
  • Decriminalise Users
  • Pharmacology
  • Education
for further information
For Further Information……

Gary Henderson, Journal of Forensic Science 1988

“In the view of this author, it is likely that the future drugs of abuse will be synthetics rather than

plant products. They will be synthesized from readily available chemicals, may be derivatives of

pharmaceuticals, will be very potent, and often very selective in their action. In addition, they will be marketed very cleverly.”


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