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Europe Is World’s Leading Drug Market, With 280 New and Dangerous “Legal” Highs Replacing Traditional Drug Use

Legal Highs: New Drugs Pose New Threats
Synthetic psychoactive drugs made in foreign countries and distributed over the internet are favored over established drugs, but can be more detrimental. Legal Highs | YouthNet

European drug users and abusers have decided it's out with the old and in with the new.

The European Drug Report, presented by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), has indicated that the type, number, and availability of newer synthetic psychoactive drugs has increased.

The introduction of these drugs began in 2009 when the economic recession occurred; purity of classic drugs like heroin and cocaine could not be trusted and so 24 synthetic drugs were produced to make up for the lack of classic drugs. In the four short years since then, 280 of these new, "legal highs" have been made and are now being sold to those wishing to get high without the risk of "bad" heroin or cocaine.

Britain has the highest levels of cocaine and heroin consumption, but according to the report, those numbers have dropped in favor of the legal highs. While this sounds favorable, there are more risks involved with these drugs than the established drugs.

Legal highs, often sold on the internet or in specialized store fronts in urban neighborhoods as "plant food", "bath salts," or "research chemicals", and given shelf names like "Black Mamba" and "Benzo Fury", are often made of substitutes, or antagonists, to established drugs, like cocaine, marijuana or heroin. Such substances are controlled and possession or sale of them would certianly be illegal.

However, with the speed at which illicit retailers put them out to the market; a new substance has been reported to be made and sold once a week this year, they cannot all be controlled. Similarly, their effects are not wholly understood in time for legislators to realize the substances are in fact controlled and illegal.

"Legal" highs is definitely a misnomer- the substances are usually illegal, but come inconspicuously packaged from countries like India and China via internet retail. This new trend has indicated that the internet can pose a serious threat and challenge in terms of drug control. Customs officers in Britain do not check mail very vigilantly and often do not catch these substances crossing their borders.

Similarly, these substances cause as many negative side effects as the classic drugs themselves. About 41 percent of drug related seizures in 2011 were caused by a highly potent form of cannabis that can be found on these legal high selling websites.

The major issue regarding these new designer drugs, aside from their illegality, is that they are often mixed with unknown compounds. They are distributed without clearance by the government organization that specialize in safety of substances consumed, like the Food and Drug Administration, or its equivalent in the United Kingdom. Thanks to this, their toxicology, long-term threats and immediate risks after use are often unknown until the user has a bad reaction or dies.

While there is no legal threat to using "legal highs", the threats they pose to a user's health cannot be ignored.

 

 

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