10 years On Understanding New Psychoactive Substances
It’s now more than 10 years since NPS first emerged in the UK. New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs), previously referred to as ‘legal highs’ — are substances designed to copy effects of drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and heroin. In their efforts to bypass legislation, underground chemists would chemically alter substances to create ‘legal’ alternatives that act in similar ways to the illegal substances they were designed to copy.
In 2016 the UK government introduced The Psychoactive Substances Act (UK PSA) banning all psychoactive substances. Although effectively putting an end to the sale of NPS on the high street, the market has continued to grow. On average, since 2009 1 new NPS was reported to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNDOC) each week and by 2017 more than 800 had been reported in total. Since the ban, sales of NPS has moved from the high street and in to the hands of street dealers and the black market. NPS such as Spice are commonly used by vulnerable and marginalised groups, including the homeless and prison populations. This has led to an increase in the number of violent assaults, overdoses and other drug-related problems.
NPS use by individuals in treatment for heroin addiction has also increased.
Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists - SCRAs In 2016, SCRAs were the most frequently seized NPS in Europe and they were responsible for nearly half the total number of reported seizures caused by NPS. Developed as ‘legal’ alternatives to cannabis more than 180 SCRAs have been identified in Europe.
SCRAs such as Spice are increasing in strength and have been associated with accidental overdose and poisonings. NPS pose a serious risk to public health.
Xanax is the trade name for alprazolam, a depressant drug belonging to a group known as benzodiazepines.
Originally prescribed and commonly used to help treat anxiety. More recently illicit Xanax has become widely used as a recreational drug to enhance the effects of alcohol or used to take the edge off a come down from stimulant type drugs such as cocaine. Alprazolam is usually sold in a blister pack or as a Xanax bar in both white and various shades of blue, violet, purple and pink. Alprazolam is also sold in powder form. You can pay as little as £1.50 for a 1mg tablet.
Effects may include: Dizziness, Respiratory depression, Decreased heart rate, Blurred vision, Slurred speech, Confusion and Lethargy.
Synthetic cannabinoids are designer drugs created to produce effects similar to cannabis. The drug is most commonly smoked. Originally marketed as “herbal incense” or “herbal smoking mixtures” they would often be labelled “not for human consumption” in an attempt to avoid the law and prosecution. Synthetic cannabinoids are sold under common brand names such as Black Mamba, K2, and Spice.
From 2008 to 2014, 142 known synthetic cannabinoids were reported to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) Effects include: nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, heart palpitations and seizures Dependent users report suffering from intense cravings and experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. Deaths from synthetic cannabis products such as Spice tripled between 2014 and 2015.