18 January 2010

And here is your starter for 2010

The January/February issue of Druglink, the first for 2010 in this, DrugScope’s 10th anniversary year, focuses on the changing landscape of drugs in the UK. Former legal highs Spice, BZP and GBL are legal no longer. Another ex-legal high, ketamine is now proving to be a real problem for more entrenched users, while the Maudsley Hospital in south London has opened a special clinic for those dependent on GBL. But the biggest surprise has been the rise of mephedrone which has come from the backwaters of internet chatting into the mainstream. Back in March ’09, Druglink highlighted growing interest in the drug; recent media interest reportedly saw online shops selling out. Although the death of a girl in Brighton proved not to be the UK’s first mephedrone-related death, even so there are now several reported incidents of hospital admissions and other problems associated with its use.

In that article, back in March, we suggested that the internet may begin to challenge traditional dealing networks for drugs and this certainly seems to be the case with mephedrone. It also highlights the problems of enforcement. Should the drug be controlled, as seems very likely before the end of the year, this will probably help stifle supply within the UK; shops will stop selling it and those who seem to be dabbling in dealing because mephedrone is currently legal, will probably stop as well. But that still leaves the internet trade and the problems of trying to stop mephedrone coming into the UK through the post . Mephedrone will still be legal in many countries of the world where it will not be illegal to host websites selling it.

There was a time, when years might elapse between new drugs appearing on the scene – the arrival of smokeable heroin, crack and ecstasy was spread over nearly a decade. But the internet offers opportunities for global high speed information exchange and for the wholesale and retail delivery of new substances which can only complicate control efforts and may hasten consideration of alternative enforcement regimes.

The issue of control of course, leads us to the role of the ACMD. Professor Les Iversen is now the acting Chair while his predecessor has established a rival council based at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies. Professor Nutt has announced that in effect his group will ‘take care of the science’, leaving the ACMD to consider aspects of social policy and treatment. Yet the Independent Scientific Council on Drug Harms will be operating outside government. Irrespective of how many eminent scientists it has in its ranks, it will still be down to the ACMD to make recommendations to government on drug control, including considerations of the scientific evidence.

The big danger is that the new group and the ACMD will be left jousting over analysis of all future drugs which hove into view, such as mephedrone - and the media will lap up any contradictory recommendations. It is important therefore that the work of the ACMD does not become limited to discussions about drug classification. It has a proud tradition of producing landmark reports which have been instrumental in shaping UK drug policy and needs to develop an equally dynamic agenda for the future.

And of course, it is Election year. But we will save that for next blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While we're looking forward, Channel 4 did a nice piece on ' Geriaddicts', is it time to reconsider parking users on methadone - cheap in the short term but not so cost effective when users are living well into their seventies. I feel a research paper coming on.