WHATS NEW? - July 2015

Government introduce new law to ban the supply of all psychoactive substances

More Than 900 arrest under new 'Drug Driving' law

Online opiate 'five times stronger than heroin' killed dad

Drug made from cannabis could bring hope to children with severe epilepsy

Global Drugs Survey finds that nitrous oxide is the second most popular drug in the UK

Two new psychoactive drugs detected every week

40 Festivals Join together to Launch Awareness of New Legal Drugs

More people than ever before buying Drugs online

Government introduce new law to ban the supply of all psychoactive substances

A new "blanket ban" on psychoactive substances will carry prison sentences of up to seven years. Ministers have published the draft laws that they say are a "landmark" in prohibiting the substances' production, distribution, sale and supply.  

A blanket ban on so called "legal highs", which are often sold online or on the high street in 'head shops', was in the Conservative Party's election manifesto and featured in the recent Queen's Speech. Labour also promised to ban their sale and distribution in its manifesto. The proposed ban has been widely criticised by those in the drugs field.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill applied to "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect", the government said. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine will be excluded, and there are also exemptions for food and medical products, while controlled drugs will continue to be regulated by existing laws.

The new restrictions will also extend to the sale of nitrous oxide - also known as laughing gas or "hippy crack" - for human use. The government said the "legitimate sale" of nitrous oxide, which is also used for food processing, medicinal and industrial purposes, would not be affected. Home Office minister Mike Penning said the measures would "fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances". They would end the "game of cat and mouse" whereby new drugs appeared on the market more quickly than the government could identify and ban them, he said.

New psychoactive drugs are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, although individual substances, such as mephedrone, have been outlawed.

The government's proposals would apply throughout the United Kingdom, and would include powers to seize and destroy substances and to search people, premises and vehicles.

For further information on the bill click here www.gov.uk/government/news/blanket-ban-to-clamp-down-on-legal-highs Back to Top

More Than 900 arrest under new 'Drug Driving' law

More than 900 motorists have been arrested on suspicion of drug-driving since a new offence was introduced in March, figures suggest.

The figures, which cover most police forces in England and Wales, are the first to be released since the new laws came into force. The Met Police had the most arrests, with 214 between 2 March and 11 May.

Home Office Minister Mike Penning said the government was "determined to tackle the menace of drug-driving". The statistics - obtained by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) under the Freedom of Information Act - showed there had been 902 drug-driving arrests in total.

Northumbria Police recorded the second highest number of arrests with 97, followed by Cheshire, which recorded 70 arrests, and Sussex, which recorded 58. Six forces did not provide figures.

The new laws, which were introduced in England and Wales, set limits at very low levels for eight illegal drugs, including cannabis and cocaine. Police are able to use a roadside "drugalyser" to screen for illegal substances.

"People who drive under the influence not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of innocent motorists, pedestrians and their passengers," Mr Penning said.

"That's why we introduced a new drug-driving offence which came into force in March. And why we approved two mobile drug-testing devices for use by police forces and encouraged chief constables to use them to help identify drug-drivers."

For details on the levels set for illegal and prescription drugs under the new law click here www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law

Back to Top

Online opiate 'five times stronger than heroin' killed dad

A father-of-three died after taking a 'legal high' opiate believed never to have been found in the UK before, an inquest has heard.

Thaker Hafid, 37, from Cardiff, was found dead by his wife after using a white powder he bought online from China. An inquest in Cardiff heard it was found to be acetyl fentanyl, which is five times stronger than heroin.

The inquest heard Mr Hafid collapsed in the study of his Fairwater home after using the drug. Emergency services were called but Mr Hafid was pronounced dead by paramedics.

Toxicologist, Dr Simon Elliott, said of the legal high: "This is the first time we have seen this in the UK. It comes in a white powder and is five times stronger than heroin and 15 times stronger than morphine. It's designed to bypass the laws as it is legal to buy. It affects the respiratory system and switches off the brain's function to tell the body to breathe."

Dr Elliott said there was a "very strong chance" people would overdose from using the drug, but it has caused insufficient deaths to be brought to the attention of the authorities. A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Hafid died as a result of the "toxic effects of a drug cocktail" in his blood, the inquest heard.

Back to Top

Drug made from cannabis could bring hope to children with severe epilepsy

Hope has been raised for children with severe forms of epilepsy that are difficult to treat after trials of a new drug derived from cannabis showed promise in helping to reduce the number of debilitating seizures suffered as a result of the condition.

The study, published by the American Academy of Neurology, tested 213 people, ranging from toddlers to adults, who had severe epilepsy that did not respond to other treatments, using a drug made from a medicinal form of cannabis.

Participants were given the drug containing canabidiol, also known as CBD, a component of cannabis that does not include the psychoactive part of the plant that creates a "high," in the form of a liquid. Each participant was aware of the drug they were taking in the open-label study, which aimed to test the tolerance of the drug and its safety.

The forms of severe epilepsy the participants had included Dravet Syndrome, which in addition to the frequent seizures experienced causes behavioural, developmental and language delays, and Lennox Gastaut syndrome, which causes children to develop moderate to severe learning difficulties, and experience a range of seizures. The study included 10 other forms of hard-to-treat epilepsy.

Though cannabis is illegal on a federal level in the US, where this study took place, GW Pharmaceuticals, which has supported the trial, was given approval by the Food and Drugs Administration last year to test Epidiolex, and trials of the drug are believed to be on-going.

Results show that, of the 137 people who completed the 12-week study, there was a 54 per cent average decrease in the number of seizures the participants experienced.

Twenty three people with Dravet syndrome completed the study and found the number of convulsive seizures they experienced had dropped by 53 per cent. Of the 11 participants who stayed the 12-week trial that had Lenox-Gastaut syndrome, they experienced a 55 per cent drop in the number of atonic seizures or "drop attacks", which cause a sudden loss of muscle tone and usually happen many times a day.

Back to Top

Global Drugs Survey finds that nitrous oxide is the second most popular drug in the UK

According to the findings of the 2015 Global Drug Survey, Nitrous Oxide is the seventh most popular drug in the world - and more people are using MDMA than cocaine.

The Survey is the UK's biggest annual drugs survey, and asked over 100,000 people from 50 countries around the world about their drug-taking habits.

It also works to inform drug users about their use of substances in a way that is "meaningful, relevant and useful", and seeks to reduce the harm of drugs amongst users through education and risk reduction strategies.

One of the most interesting figures was the rate of nitrous oxide - seven per cent of global respondents said they had used the drug in the previous year, more than the number who had used poppers or ketamine in the same time period.

In the UK, nitrous oxide usage was even higher - 23.7 per cent of UK respondents said they had used laughing gas in the previous year, the second highest rate in the world after the Netherlands. The drug, which may be banned in the government's recent clampdown on psychoactive substances, is typically blown into a balloon from a small metal canister. The balloon then inflates, and the user breathes in and out of the balloon, taking the gas into their lungs.

It produces a short yet very intense dissociative experience, making it popular with clubbers. Its previous legality and cheap price - balloons are often sold outside nightclubs or at house parties for around one to three pounds each - means it has been used by many people who may never touch illegal drugs.

Despite its widespread and safe use as an anaesthetic in dentistry and amongst women in labour, the survey found that heavy users of the gas were putting themselves at risk of adverse health effects. Three per cent of users reported symptoms consistent with peripheral neuropathy, a condition that results from damaged nerves, and that can cause persistent numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or around the face or mouth.

Dr Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey, said that banning nitrous oxide would be the wrong decision. He said: "The majority of people who use it don't use it very often, and only around three per cent of heavy users say they have experienced negative health effects. What would be better would be more education on the effects and dangers of the drug, not blunt regulation."

Despite the prevalence of laughing gas, cannabis still leads the way as the most popular drug - with 55 per cent of respondents saying they had used it in the previous year. MDMA, or ecstasy, came a distant second, with 23 per cent of respondents having used it in the previous year. Although they're not strictly party drugs, the use of psychedelics was also high - 8.5 per cent of respondents had used LSD or magic mushrooms, more than had used laughing gas.

Full results from the GDS 2015 can be found by clicking here: www.globaldrugsurvey.com/

Back to Top

Two new psychoactive drugs detected every week

The European agency for drug monitoring detects two new psychoactive substances or legal highs per week according to a recent study.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction has said in its annual review that a total of 101 new substances had been identified by its early warning system this year alone. The new drugs bring the total of legal highs being monitored by the centre to a total of 450 in 20 years of research – more than half of that number were identified over the last three years alone.

The European Agency reports that the proliferation of legal highs is being aided by the growth of online "grey marketplaces" which operate on both on the surface and deep web. It said it had identified 650 websites advertising the sale of legal highs to Europeans.

Combating the spread of legal highs in Europe has been made all the more challenging because of developments to the online market, as the centre explains, because goods and services can be exchanged anonymously using crypto currencies such as Bitcoin. Social media and mobile apps are also being used increasingly to directly or indirectly market legal highs.

"The growth of online and virtual drug markets pose major challenges to law enforcement and drug control policies", the report says.

"Existing regulatory models will need to be adapted to perform in a global and and virtual context".

Back to Top

40 Festivals Join together to Launch Awareness of New Legal Drugs

Bestival and other major summer music festivals are to black out their websites to highlight the dangers of new legal drugs.

The 24-hour online blackout campaign will see organisers replacing their online presence with an image of a roulette wheel and the message: "You could lose the lot on legal highs."

More than 40 summer festivals, including T in the Park, the Secret Garden party, Lovebox and Parklife, are to take part in the initiative organised by the Association of Independent Festivals. That is double the number who took part in a similar campaign last year.

The homepage of each website will lead to an infographic showing key statistics, facts and advice about legal highs. It will include information and advice about nitrous oxide or "laughing gas", whose widespread use has triggered serious health fears. Fields strewn with the metal canisters that are used to inhale the gas have become a familiar sight at many festivals.

The festivals' websites will highlight the unpredictable effects of many new legal drugs and emphasise that the risks can be even greater than traditional illegal drugs as far less is known about them.

Back to Top

More people than ever before buying Drugs online.

More people started buying drugs online in 2014 than ever before, despite the closure of the Silk Road website the previous year, according to new research.

Silk Road, which was closed down by the FBI in October 2013, was the first major online drugs marketplace. Following the conviction of its creator, Ross Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life imprisonment last month for his role in the site, the FBI claimed that more than 100,000 people had used Silk Road and described it as "the most sophisticated and extensive criminal market on the internet".

But the results of the Global Drug Survey 2015, an online survey that attracted more than 100,000 responses from individuals around the world about their drug use, suggests that the site's closure has failed to stem an increase in the number of people buying drugs online.

More than 11,750 respondents said they had purchased drugs online, both on conventional websites and on "darknet" sites like Silk Road that require encryption software to access. A quarter of those people said they first did so in 2014, more than any previous year.

Other research has indicated that the darknet drug economy is expanding. Last year, BBC News reported that the number of darknet listings had doubled in the 10 months following the collapse of Silk Road and the UN World Drug Report 2014, published around the same time, observed that "the variety of drugs available and purchased on the darknet is diverse and growing."

The 2015 survey results also shed light on what advantages darknet markets are considered to have over other drug sources. Respondents were asked to report problems they had experienced with darknet markets, and then to report problems they had experienced with the alternative sources of drugs they would turn if they could no longer access those sites.

The responses indicate users found the darknet to be cheaper, more reliable and safer than their alternative sources. Three-quarters of respondents reported being overcharged by their alternative source, compared with 38% reporting the same problem with the darknet. Almost three in four (74%) reported being sold a low quality product by their alternative source, while only 27% said they had the same problem on the darknet.

Back to Top

Whats New?