Discovery of New ‘Legal High’ Psychoactive Drugs on the Rise
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A startling number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) are being discovered, providing a viable legal alternative to their illicit counterparts like MDMA and LSD.
In recent years, the rate of NPS discoveries has skyrocketed, with a total of 126 NPS reported in 2009 and jumping to 450 NPS in 2014. These synthetic drugs produce powerful physical, emotional, and hallucinogenic effects, and while technically legal, have been shown to negatively impact health.
“NPS are marketed as alternatives to internationally controlled drugs and are purported to produce effects similar to those of their ‘traditional’ counterparts,” the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) wrote in its report. “The growing number of NPS available worldwide indicates that the market for synthetic drugs is becoming even more diversified.”
According to the UNODC, 39% of reported NPS are synthetic cannabinoids, like K2 and Spice, that are made to spray onto cannabis plant material. Nearly 18% are phenethylamines, like bromo-dragonfly, that mimic drugs like LSD, while 15% are synthetic cathinones, known as bath salts or flakka, that cause erratic and intensely violent behavior. The remainder are an amalgam of other substances.
While the number of reported UNODC is no doubt rising, the UNODC recognizes that the sharp increase may be at least partially due to their increasing ability to both collect data and identify the synthetic drugs.