Issue In Focus: New Psychoactive Substances
K2, spice, bath salts, kratom, khat, salvia, ketamine, mephedrone – what all these have in common is that they are lumped into a category of drugs called New Psychoactive Substances.
In the US, the National Alliance for Model State Laws has for the past few years been promoting and tracking state and local legislation prohibiting synthetic cannabinoids and other New Psychoactive Substances. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime devoted almost half of its most recent annual World Drug Report to New Psychoactive Substances.
What actually are NPS? According to the UNODC, quote:
“NPS are substances of abuse, either in a pure form or a preparation, that are not controlled by international drug conventions, but which may pose a public health threat. In this context, the term 'new' does not necessarily refer to new inventions but to substances that have newly become available in specific markets. In general, NPS is an umbrella term for unregulated (new) psychoactive substances or products intended to mimic the effects of controlled drugs.”
How big is the problem? Again according to UNODC, quote:
“The number of NPS reported by Member States to UNODC rose from 166 at the end of 2009 to 251 by mid-2012, an increase of more than 50 per cent. For the first time, the number of NPS actually exceeded the total number of substances under international control (234).”
That's 485 substances. Sounds like a lot, yet consider this, also from UNODC, quote:
“Generally, the following kinds of impacts have been observed after the scheduling of a NPS:
"The substance remains on the market, but its use declines immediately. Examples include mephedrone in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, BZP in New Zealand, 'legal highs' in Poland, mephedrone in Australia and MDPV in the United States of America;
"Use of the substance declines after a longer interval, maybe a year or more (e.g. ketamine in the United States);
"Scheduling has little or no immediate impact on the use of the substance, e.g. 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA), commonly known as 'ecstasy', in the United States and other countries.
"Further, there are cases of NPS disappearing from the market. This has also been the case with the majority of the substances controlled under the 1961 Convention and the 1971 Convention. Of the 234 substances currently under international control, only a few dozen are still being misused, and the bulk of the misuse is concentrated in a dozen such substances.”
251 New Psychoactive Substances – some not so new yet still, new to the authorities and to the world at large. It can be hard to keep up with it all. At least from now on, you'll be able to find out about them in the newly created New Psychoactive Substances chapter in Drug War Facts - more about that in the next section.
New Psychoactive Substances are a major concern these days, as explained in the Issue In Focus at the top of this newsletter. It's a broad category and is subject to change, so keeping up on NPS presents a challenge. Drug War Facts can help, with its new chapter on New Psychoactive Substances
At long last, Drug War Facts has a chapter on Tobacco and Nicotine. It is very much a work in progress, even more than the other chapters because it is still being put together at the time this newsletter is being written. http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/chapter/Tobacco
Notable New Facts
(Prevalence of Synthetic Cannabinoid Use Among US Youth) "Synthetic marijuana, so named because it contains synthetic versions of some of the cannabinoids found in marijuana, is a recent and important addition to the smorgasbord of drugs available to American young people. These designer chemicals are sprayed onto herbal materials that are then sold in small packets under such brand names as Spice and K-2. They have been readily available as over-the-counter drugs on the Internet, in head shops and gas stations, etc. While many of the most widely used chemicals were scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Administration in March of 2011, making their sale no longer legal, purveyors of these products have skirted the restrictions by making small changes in the chemical composition of the cannabinoids used. Use of these products was first measured in MTF in 2011 in a tripwire question for 12th graders, asking about their frequency of use in the prior 12 months. Annual prevalence was found to be 11.4%, making synthetic marijuana the second most widely used class of illicit drug after marijuana. In spite of the DEA’s scheduling of the most common ingredients, use among 12th graders remained unchanged in 2012, with 11.3% annual prevalence. Eighth and 10th graders were also asked about use of these drugs in 2012, and their annual prevalence rates were 4.4% and 8.8%, respectively, making synthetic marijuana the second most widely used illicit drug among 10th graders, as well, and the third among 8th graders behind marijuana and inhalants. There is a relatively low level of perceived risk for trying synthetic marijuana once or twice, despite growing evidence of serious problems resulting from the use of these drugs."
Source: Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2013). "Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2012: Volume I, Secondary school students." Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, p. 15.
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3315#sthash.8h8vMkHP.dpuf
(New Psychoactive Substances Defined) "In the operating guidelines on the early warning system, EMCDDA made it explicit that 'the term ‘new’ did not refer to newly invented, but rather ‘newly misused’' substances as 'most of the drugs in question were first created many years ago.'20 In fact, investigations into the potential use of piperazines as anthelmintic have been reported in scientific literature since the early 1950s.21 Yet they only started to emerge as a health problem in several countries in the decade 2001-2010. Similarly ketamine, which was first developed in the mid-1960s, started to emerge as a health problem in that decade in several countries of East and South-East Asia. Mephedrone was first synthesized in 1929 but was rediscovered only in 2003 and reached the markets towards the end of the decade 2001-2010.22
"NPS also include plant-based substances that have existed for centuries. In the profiles of 'new drugs', EMCDDA lists plant-based substances such as Salvia divinorum and khat. Khat has been known for hundreds of years in the countries around the Horn of Africa and the southern parts of the Arabian peninsula. However, it is considered to be a new substance in a number of European and American countries, as its use was barely known in those regions until one or two decades ago. The same applies to Salvia divinorum, kratom, and various hallucinogenic mushrooms, which are all considered to be NPS.23 Using the definition 'newly misused on the market', the overwhelming number of non-controlled psychoactive substances can be regarded as NPS, as there will always be some countries in which they have not been misused before."
Source: UNODC, World Drug Report 2013 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.13.XI.6), pp. 62-63.
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3312#sthash.eVjilgrA.dpuf
(New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) Defined) "The creation of new substances to exploit loopholes in drug control legislation has been a problem since the international drug control system was first established. The proliferation of such substances in recent decades was influenced by the work done by Ann and Alexander Shulgin on phenethylamines8 and tryptamines9 in the 1960s and the 1970s. The Shulgins reported over 230 psychoactive compounds that they had synthesized and evaluated for their psychedelic and entactogenic potential. More recently, a number of piperazines, synthetic cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids emerged, which were marketed as 'legal' alternatives to controlled substances."
Source: UNODC, World Drug Report 2013 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.13.XI.6), p. 60.
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3310#sthash.0ZJRTQEG.dpuf
(Global Tobacco-Related Mortality) "Tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable death. It kills nearly 6 million people and causes hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage worldwide each year. Most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and this disparity is expected to widen further over the next several decades. If current trends continue, by 2030 tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year, with 80% of these premature deaths among people living in low- and middle-income countries. Over the course of the 21st century, tobacco use could kill a billion people or more unless urgent action is taken."
Source: World Health Organization, "WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011: Warning About the Dangers of Tobacco" (Geneva, Switzerland: WHO, 2011), p. 8.
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3309#sthash.cuLjR5YQ.dpuf
(Medicinal Nicotine Products and Addiction Potential) "Nonetheless, although the pharmacokinetics of some smokeless tobacco products may overlap with those of medicinal nicotine products, medicinal products tend to have a slower rate and a lower amount of nicotine absorption than do the most popular brands of conventional smokeless tobacco products (Kotlyar et al. 2007). Among the medicinal nicotine products, nicotine nasal spray has the fastest rate of nicotine absorption, followed by nicotine gum, the nicotine lozenge, and the nicotine patch.
Source: US Department of Health and Human Services. "How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General." Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010, p. 114.
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Recent_Facts#sthash.u1Y8a4oO.oveVoTtt.d…
(Treatment Effectiveness) "The overriding finding from this study is that treatment is associated with a reduction in harmful behaviours that are associated with problem drug use.The majority of treatment seekers received care-coordinated treatment, expressed satisfaction with their care, were retained in treatment beyond three months, reported significant and substantial reductions in drug use and offending, and improvements in mental well-being and social functioning."
Source: Andrew Jones, et al., "Research Report 24: The Drug Treatment Outcomes Research Study (DTORS): Final Outcomes Report" (London, England: UK Government, Home Office Ministry, Research, Development & Statistics Directorate, December 2009), p. 14.
- See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3295#sthash.Fs2CHz49.dpuf
Notable New Sources
Andrew Jones, et al., "Research Report 24: The Drug Treatment Outcomes Research Study (DTORS): Final Outcomes Report" (London, England: UK Government, Home Office Ministry, Research, Development & Statistics Directorate, December 2009).
US Department of Health and Human Services. "How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General." Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010.
World Health Organization, "WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2011: Warning About the Dangers of Tobacco" (Geneva, Switzerland: WHO, 2011).
UNODC, World Drug Report 2013 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.13.XI.6).
Drug Truth Media: DWF Editor Doug McVay wrote and produced video and audio segments for DrugTruth Network this past month:
June 20: Workplace Drug Testing Survey http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4395
June 26: UNODC's World Drug Day http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4403
July 6: UNODC World Drug Report http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4414
Unvarnished Truth #10: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzSS-bwovm4
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