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back to article Brussels acts to ensure arrival of new, unknown legal highs

The European Commission is promising tighter rules on 'legal highs' despite surveys indicating that most people think such action should be based on medical evidence. Synthetic drugs - the most infamous was labelled meow-meow by the tabloids - mimic the effects of illegal substances like ecstasy and speed. Sold online or through …

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Silver badge
Coat

So who else thinks they will try .....

..... to ban the *act* of getting high, as opposed to specific substances, devices or techniques used to achieve this? They could then make a narrow exception for alcohol and have done with it.

Sure it would be unworkable, but that's never stopped an elected representative in a lawmaking frenzy before.

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that would be fun...

They would have to ban all those freaky religious meetings where people are possessed by the spirit too (speaking in tongues and lying on the floor twitching), cause man do they look like they've taken something...

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Meh

I am really not sure how serious I am here.

Good idea - they can ban addiction while they're at it.

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Bronze badge

They Already Do

It's called "Driving Under The Influence", and the only difference between alcohol and everything else is that they have some specific, measurable, limits for alcohol.

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Pint

not really

thats a ban from driving whilst high, which some people (myself included) consider to be a good thing....

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Stop

Usual problem

Politicians: "You are all idiots. Also, this stuff might be dangerous, so we're just going to ban it for your safety before it's invented."

Public: "Have you asked any medical experts to evaluate just what the dangers are?"

"No, but it isn't taxed like tobacco or alcohol, so it must be dangerous. In fact, we've disbanded the medical and science advisory boards because they said that some of these things weren't actually dangerous, but my public school education tells me otherwise."

"Oh, thanks; have some extra expenses."

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FAIL

Eh?

Who is going to pay for clinical trials of 50+ new designer drugs per year, and how long do you think it will take for those results to come through and individual legislation to be passed in each case? Should the public pay? Are pharma companies going to pay? Are the designer drug labs going to pay when instead they can just sell something almost chemically identical and side-step the law for another few months?

I really don't understand why you're hett up, when the reality is that blanket legislation is far safer for users of recreational substances.

If you're going to take drugs, take ones that have been around for a while, where side-effects and treatments are known, and you (and medical professionals standing next to the crash cart) can make an informed decision, instead of just chowing stupidly down on some mystery powder.

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Anonymous Coward

Nobody can afford that

But if you blanket ban it pushes people to design drugs for no other purpose than to avoid that ban, with likely far worse health effects but completely legal until the ban extends. Using the human subject to metabolise the inital drug into another one is common enough already with GBL which works fine but something more harmful is bound to come along if people are pushed around in this way to stay legal.

I'd rather see people using something close to a well researched drug than random research chemicals that have some effects but are legal and so more profitable.

These drugs does in milligrams but grams are being sold for £20, the problem is again the industry is young and streamlined so pre packaged doses are unknown.

The whole thing is leading to something legal taking off fast followed by some unknown detrimental long term health effects or as with the JWH-, AM-, GBL the dosages are the problem.

Illegal = dangerous is known to be untrue by everyone, if they graded drugs by the health effects people would be able to trust these bans.

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Facepalm

Great idea...

"if they graded drugs by the health effects people would be able to trust these bans"

How?

Via testing, which takes years and substantial funding. So we leave such random drugs as perfectly legal while there are trials? That's clearly not in the public interest. So we test them... and who pays? And we allow them to be legally obtained while trials are ongoing, or do we ban them until trials are complete?

Nobody *knows* the effects. The government are legislating not against perfectly fine legal highs, but against people purchasing for human consumption compounds whose effects are unknown. It's not the dosage that's the problem, but the substance itself.

Legalising established drugs after testing *them* for long-term effects would eliminate the market for these random powders, but that's not realistically going to happen.

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FAIL

Legal highs emulate existing drugs

'existing' drugs in this case meaning things like opiates, coke, E, cannabis, LSD, etc. All things that have been used for quite a while and had extensive studies carried out on them, sometimes by actual scientists doing experiments.

Legalise the 'existing' drugs- and regulate/QC/ tax them etc- and you would kill the market for 'legal highs' as people could get high legally without them. All the basic forms of 'high' are covered to various degrees by pretty common drugs, so further recreational drug development would mostly be refinement rather than totally new chemicals. Saying that, if someone did want to introduce another awesome drug (say, non-addictive Heroin or something like that) then they could do the testing themselves and present their findings to the relevant authorities, same as always. And better yet, no taxpayers money need be spent besides paperworky stuff with the regulators.

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Big Brother

We are not legislating against legal highs?

"The government are legislating not against perfectly fine legal highs, but against people purchasing for human consumption compounds whose effects are unknown."

Hmmm... a tautology followed by a goal that's only reachable in a politician's brown-envelopes-and-pony land.

Yup, the masses may be unwashed but at least they are brainwashed.

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Give it up

Legalise it, grade/certify it, tax it.

Base any restrictions/advice on medical evidence (e.g. booze, baccy) and not on reactionary propaganda.

Benefits? Vast amounts of tax revenue, reductions in crime, reductions in police workload, reductions medical admissions due to tainted drugs etc.

Will the number of users go up? Almost certainly.

Will the price go down? Almost certainly.

Will problems go up? Maybe, but still won't be as bad as alcohol IMHO.

Legalise everything? Don't be daft. Cannabis I don't see any issue with (I can't smoke, so this isn't a personal desire) but something like crack is just too damaging to ever be legal I think.

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Oh, please, not that again

"but something like crack is just too damaging to ever be legal I think" -- Why, in any debate about legalising drugs, does somebody *always* bring up crack cocaine and stand there with their arms folded looking smug, as though they have just done something clever?

Simple fact: if cocaine were legal, almost nobody would bother with cooking it up into crack.

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FAIL

No...

If Cocaine were legal, a lot of people in South America would still be getting mowed down with AKs in order to get it to you. Coke is not a drug that is particularly morally justifiable considering the violence that surrounds its production.

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@AC

And that's what needs changed. Legalising it means legalising the supply chain as well. You won't get rid of every single problem (heck, we still have child-labour sweatshops) but I put it to you that the situation will be "less bad".

It's not as if prohibition is working, is it?

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@Stiles

I agree. Most of the problems are caused by the restricted/tainted supply.

The drugs should just be graded on risk/cost and if found to be lower then or equal to booze/baccy, legalised. Some forms should, however, still remain illegal/controlled. Just like when one needs some meths, one can't just pop into the local corner shop and buy it.

Hell, if the Afghanis could sell their opium openly, they might be able to yank themselves out of the state they are in.

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Trollface

@AC 12:02

Is that so? I guess the same occurs with coffee production, and potatos, fruit & veg and everything else too?

If it is legalised, and is traded normally I'm sure that there wouldn't be the same need for protections and armed gangs; nor would it command the same high premium. I'm sure that they wouldn't go away overnight, why would they want to, but if there was no need for them in the first place (like with gorwing potatos), how can you be so sure that it would still happen.

Also a lot of violence goes on in the production of "democracy". Does that mean "democracy" is immoral too?

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Stop

Unrealistic

Legalise the supply chain? That's never going to happen, and that's an unrealistic solution. It'd have to get the OK from the UN, our own government, and the supplying nations.

And of course deforesting a bunch of rainforest. Yay. Great. Not that legalisation at source would really decrease the violence between competing producers.

"It's not as if prohibition is working, is it?"

Compared to what? One could say the same about drink driving. Prohibition kinda *does* work, because it drastically decreases the user base. Now I like my narcotics as much as the next guy, but blanket legalisation of all narcotics isn't a great idea.

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Unhappy

Drug policy is properly bonkers

As far as I am concerned, private drug use is a moral matter, not a legal one.

Causing populations to switch from well-known and well-understood substances (ok, with impurities) onto Chinese lottery compounds, where there is no epidemiological data, is an appalling triumph of moral sanctimony over public health responsibility. I am sure in the years to come it will rank up there with giving hormones to homosexuals like Alan Turing.

Consenting adults in private should be allowed to do what the fuck they like, and they do, now, with regard to their sexual exploits, though that wasn't always the case, was it??

Governments and EU lawmakers should keep away from moralising. My contract with them (and its me who fucking pays for them) is to protect me from criminals, i.e. those with intent to cause harm.

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Yawn

It's a moral and personal matter so long as you:

1. Manage to hold down a job and your work isn't affected.

2. If you don't manage to hold down a job you don't resort to crime.

3. You don't expect the NHS to fix any health problems you get as a result, boozing is bad enough but at least they know what it is and what it does. With some drugs there's more serious unknown about what it does to mental health.

4. You don't become mentally ill and start killing people.

We have enough problems with alcohol, we don't want drug use to become more socially acceptable just like drinking yourself stupid appears to be.

The problem with the "legalise it" crowd is many of them are drug users, so they obviously want their habit to be made legal.

You can't advocate the legalisation of something when you have a vested interest in it.

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FAIL

Dumbest. Comment. Ever.

"You can't advocate the legalisation of something when you have a vested interest in it."

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Facepalm

Move to China

RE point #1, I take it you believe it's acceptable to regulate any aspect of people's lives that might make them less "productive" members of society?

And your closing point is just ridiculous. Is that why the suffragettes were all men?

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@Giles Jones

"You can't advocate the legalisation of something when you have a vested interest in it."

I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't take illegal drugs either.

However I do understand the rationale of legalising drugs because of the utter failure of the so-called "war on drugs" that we have comprehensively lost because trying to ban these drugs is only creating *more* misery in the world and enriching violent criminals.

There is only *one* solution and that is to legalise the production and supply, all that is needed is the political will.

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Thumb Up

@Graham Marsden ...

... you said everything I was going to. Thanks!

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Stop

Prohibition isn't working

It's as effective as alcohol prohibition in the USA was. This policy is simply not working. We have to legalise, regulate and tax these drugs. It might be a tough pill to swallow (no pun intended) but it will reduce crime both here and in the producing countries (cos dead people with brown skins matter as well).

As for me, I'm really not interested in taking drugs these days. I just want the stupidity to end.

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Coat

Why is catnip still legal then?

My old puss used to get smashed off her six tits on this stuff, how come pet shops are peddling this filth to children when it's clearly a legal feline high?!

Mine's the one that makes tails go erect!

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Happy

Catnip..

Solve the problem by growing your own. Our 6 cats work quite well in defending their local drug monopoly. And now don't touch the shop-bought stuff after having got used to the stuff fresh from the plant..

And provide us amusement too when thoroughly nipped up..

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Happy

Brass Eye quote.

Remember kids, Cake is a made-up drug.

Just seemed appropriate.

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interesting fact

selling drugs pays minimum wage apparently (US) http://stiglerlawoffice.com/public/gangfinance.pdf

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WTF?

Clarrification

"The moves mean that medical staff who are dealing with patients who have taken designer drugs have little or no information on what the likely long or short-term impact of the substance may be."

The moves of the developers, or the moves of the legislators?

The first makes sense. The second does not.

The issue with the designer drugs is that there has been no testing. And there won't be. Legitimate companies are not going to pay for clinical tests, and nor are the factories in China churning the stuff out. People are basically experimenting on themselves, and if it goes wrong, hospital staff have NO CLUE about specific treatments. Established drugs are far safer to take, and -as draconian as it sounds- blanket laws prohibiting wide ranges of designer drugs are in the public interest, because legislating against each and every one is expensive and completely ineffective.

<froth> More to write, but the comments box isn't the place. Ask me nicely and I'll write you an article.

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Bronze badge

re: which is it?

The moves in question *are* the moves of the legislators. By constantly banning stuff, the legislators provoke the Chinese labs into cooking up new-different legal stuff, so all the legal highs are always too new for the medical people to know anything about much more than short-term effects.

And as others have pointed out, a constant clinical trial phase before legislating bans would slow down the cycle, but not stop it, and would cost an unreasonable amount of money.

Legalising some list of drugs beyond those already explicitly legal (ethanol, nicotine, caffeine, theobromine, etc.) would have a number of interesting effects:

* An increase in the safety of each legalised substance, as the tendency is for illegal drugs to be cut with, well, random stuff that you don't know what it is.

* An increase in tax revenue, as you can apply the same sort of taxes to these drugs as you apply to the existing legal drugs.

* A short term spike in the quantity consumed, as people experiment with the new explicitly-legal high, followed by a drop. The final level is difficult to predict, but probably would be similar to now.

* A down-spike in the quantity consumed of the remaining illegal drugs, as people switch from illegal expensive stuff with uncertain contaminants to cheaper legal stuff with regulated content.

* A reduction in certain types of crime, as it becomes less necessary to do that stuff in order to pay for drugs.

* etc.

The list to be legalised is difficult to assess, as the edges of what's considered OK vary with time, culture, and so on. I don't have any easy solutions there, and it's a difficult set of decisions to make. I'd also say that the current collection of clowns in the UK government aren't up to the job, sadly.

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Thumb Up

There's another payoff, too.

If you legalise all drugs and merely enforce labelling of them, then you get another payoff too. Not only do drugs gangs promptly go out of business by being out-competed by legitimate and more efficient businesses, but you then allow much more experimentation with novel mixtures of drugs. In Britain, the definition of "a good night out" for a lot of people seems to be to drink enough ethanol to completely shut down all rational thought; to make the world go away, in other words. The downside here is that when rationality goes, you're left with a belligerent and uninhibited ape on the rampage.

If you permitted drug chemists to experiment, though, something very different might happen. It has been hypothesised that a mixture of short-acting benzodiazeprene and possibly a synthetic cannabinoid mixed in a pleasant-tasting base at a fairly low dilution might work much better. The net effect of such a potion would be to get the user happily stoned and fairly zombified into the bargain. Users of such an intoxicant wouldn't pose much of a threat to anyone; rounding them up would pose little problem save where to warehouse a collection of twerps until morning (good toilet facilities being the key here).

Similarly if known-good natural dugs are available, dangerous synthetics will likely go out of fashion. Methamphetamine only became popular in the USA because cocaine was hard and expensive to come by; the high is inferior and the side-effects drastic compared to cocaine. Skunk cannabis might also die a death if users were permitted to freely possess the milder, less harmful Victorian varieties; if this were coupled with non-smoke inhalers then the lung cancer risk could be almost eliminated as well.

Prohibition isn't working with drugs. It never has worked, and there is no reason to suppose it ever will. Only utter morons carry on failing because failing is all they know; we're supposed to be smarter than that.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Clarrification

Hello,

I meant that the continuing attempts to ban substances mean developers will simply create different ones. The changes to the law push this development. If meph was still legal then that's what people would be buying/selling.

We might be interested in a longer article - but we can only pay in tomato feed or bath salts...

cheers

john

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Anonymous Coward

Except...

Prior to legislation there was already an ever-changing range of synthetic compounds fresh out of China on the market. Meph had a large market-share, but there were plenty of other varieties of 'plant food' available for purchase, and more arriving by the month.

The UK does not exist in a vacuum, and legislation in other countries would continue to drive development and chemical tinkering, which would still result in an ever-changing mix of chemicals hitting our shores.

Have you got any tomato flavoured bath salts? If so, you can count me in for 700 words!

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Holmes

Ireland has a ban in place.....

Ireland has already enacted a blanket ban, as of the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2010/en/act/pub/0022/index.html

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Anonymous Coward

What if they discovered a substance that really *is* a plant food

but also happens to get you high?

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Anonymous Coward

"Skunk Cannabis"

This term annoys me.

Skunk is just one of many different (hundreds, thousands?) strains of cannabis. There are also many different strains/phenotypes of skunk, and there are other non-skunk strains that contain a higher THC and CBD content than this "killer skunk" Gordon Brown kept misinforming everyone about.

It's like calling all fast cars "Lamborghini death cars", even though 90% of them are Ferraris and Porsches, and 20% of those are a lot more powerful than the Lamborghinis (I like cars).

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Anonymous Coward

And all of them

are compensating for something lacking in the trouser department.

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Holmes

i was going to comment

but then i remembered that it doesnt matter any way cause the drug board is basically non-existent, no mp will ever stand up and change things whilst theyre in power and for years people will continue this very boring discussion. Oh and its only boring cause it never gets anywhere.

so carry on.

im going for a joint

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Holmes

Legalise and tax?

Do you realise how many wealthy and influential toes you would be stepping on if you diverted the profits of this industry towards the public sector? Mark my words, that will never happen. To quote a Holmes villain "It's too good a thing to let the public into."

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Established drugs are NOT far safer to take

"Established drugs are far safer to take"

Theoretically, if you have access to lab pure source and are sure what your dealer is selling is what he says it is then maybe.....however while black market profiteers and gangs are in control this is never going to be true.

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Big Brother

Correction

You mean while the government is in control.

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Anonymous Coward

I disagree

They're safer to take because users are more familiar with dosages, and medical staff are familiar with symptoms and required courses of action in case of emergency. There's a lot less to go wrong, and a clearer course of action if it does.

Despite what the Daily Fail would have you believe, dealers do not cut their product with rat poison and similar substances because that would be stupid. Dealers like their customers to come back to them, rather than to go to other sources or hospital. Plus; rat poison is far more expensive than dextrose. Why use it?

In short, narcotics are far less dangerous than the media would have you believe (especially in comparison with Special Brew!).

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Anonymous Coward

proposal

I once happenned to be in a position to speak directly to a chief-superintendant type.. I shan't go into details.. but I did take the opportunity to suggest the licensing of home grown cannabis with a counterbalance that anyone caught driving under the influence or selling to minors/other vulnerable social classes and any other negative aspected activity - ie, only for personal and reasonble volumes of production be thoroughly proscecuted to within an inch of their existence..

He agreed it would be a better method than the one they were using at the time.. and just think of the tax revenue..

as for the synthi-drugs.. it's always all about the provenance. If you don't know it, don't touch it.

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My Theory on Dinosaurs ...

is that we need to respin the entire Drug industry. To do this you introduce quality guarantee as the law's criterion by requiring the seller to guarantee quality

and testing.

So you could sell, without much fear of prosecution, things like cannabis, beer,

or even opium because there's real medical studies, as well as long human

experience with these. That and identifying them is quite easy so adulteration

pointless.

Heroin would rather more difficult, but not impossible, for the seller to warrant.

And such an approach would make experimental lab drugs a serious offense

to sell simply because there's no valid study of the effects of the specific

chemicals involved. If you can't point to good evidence of something's

relative harmlessness, perhaps you should get banged up for flogging it.

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Slight edit....

"The Commission noted that 8,500 EC useless wastes of space die each year from drug overdoses."

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Anonymous Coward

It's all about control...

... and the fact that they can't control it.

That's the bottom line. If there's no control, there's no tax profit for government.

The reason that alcohol and tobacco are legal, is because it's pretty difficult and expensive to produce - and obviously because it's got such a foothold, no illegal operation to compete with the price or distribution.

As we all know, Alcohol is probably the most abused drug there is, causes more harm to society than any other drug - and is entirely legal.

Tobacco is massively addictive, causes harm to users - and is entirely legal.

But because these are two heavily controlled and lucrative markets - the tax revenues generated are massive, the authorities see no problem which is essentially, double standards.

If someone came up with a foolproof way to produce decent, cheap alcoholic beverages, it would be made illegal. The same applies to tobacco - if it were possible to grow and manufacture it as cheaply as the tobacco companies, the control would be lost = lost tax revenue.

By the same token, if the large suppliers were allowed to produce massive quantities of cannabis and sell it legally, the price would spiral downwards even if heavily taxed. Illegal producers would no longer be able to turn a profit.

The way I see it, that is the bottom line and the proof is obvious to see.

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Silver badge

Sir

I know someone who has just been prescribed some anti-depressants - the side effects list has put them off even trying them.

Dr's advice - if you can make it through the first two weeks it should get better - people take these drugs to stop them being so depressed they kill themselves, but one of the major side effects is suicidal thoughts.

They're legal though, and they generate huge tax profits for the gubbermint - they just aren't much fun. They only seem to ban stuff people might enjoy.

Fuckers.

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Boffin

OT

I was on an anti-depressant for two years, and it was basically a placebo with side effects. Left me completely impotent, and some disappointments would cause me to sink extremely low. After I quit the deep lows disappeared. I later discovered biofeedback, from a psychologist with previous uni positions in Ottawa and Boston. It worked and it's permanent, but still virtually unknown. He's written a book, but can't get it published. He does a lot of work for ADHD.

Prohibition of drugs is as massive a failure as it was years ago for that other drug, alcohol. But the conservative types in society are characterized by belief and an inability to learn from experience. Don't expect anything to change.

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Anonymous Coward

hmm, I have experience with antidepressants

Lots of.

Starting off, 2 weeks is a bit short, more typically it's 3, as it was with me. It can be 6 weeks. It can be a rough time before they start though, very rough - mood swings up and down like hell. Not fun. Makes you want to give up early, which is a *bad* idea. Please let him know not to.

Some people report few side effects on SSRIs, I had plenty. Most dangerous was not suicidal thoughts but a slowly developing rage which was so bad I realised, eventually, it was reasonably possible I would end up killing someone, which was frightened me enough to starting cutting down the dose enough to be safe while still being good for me.

This uncontrollable temper is an acknowledged side effect, it's just not made too public and described in quack-talk for added obscurity. Hail to bloody pharma for hiding what I needed to know. Shithead mammon-worshipping bastards.

As for 'aren't much fun' and 'stuff people might enjoy', I really think you misunderstand the nature of depression, and what antidepressants are for. Count yourself lucky if you never have to find out.

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