06 Sep Regulators Struggle to Keep up with New Psychoactive Substances
Worldwide, governing bodies are facing new challenges when it comes to regulating psychoactive substances. Innovations typically run ahead of regulations, with drug manufacturers constantly changing chemical combinations in order to stay ahead of the law.
The World Drug Report 2014, a publication of the United Nations, discusses psychoactive drugs on a global scale. Out of 103 nations included in the report, 94 indicated that there were new psychoactive drugs available in their country. In 2012, by contrast, 70 out of 80 countries reported new psychoactive drugs.
The change reflects some trends occurring in various regions. New psychoactive substances were reported in Europe (nine countries), Asia (seven countries) and Africa (eight countries).
Most of Europe and North America report that there are new psychoactive drugs being used. In addition, Asia, South America and several countries in Africa also report the existence of new psychoactive substances. The trend supports psychoactive drug use as a global problem.
The biggest change in the emergence of psychoactive substances was witnessed in Europe between July 2012 and December 2013. In this timeframe, nine additional countries in Europe reported new psychoactive substances.
There was also a significant increase in the number of new psychoactive substances available globally between 2009 and 2013. By the end of 2013, the number of new psychoactive substances reached 348. In July 2012, that number was 251. In 2009, it was 166. At the international level, only 234 psychoactive substances are controlled.
Much of the increase is due to the new synthetic cannabinoids. These drugs are generally made up of plant matter that is sprayed with chemicals to imitate some of the effects of natural marijuana. The drugs are sold under names like Spice and K2. Chemical contents vary widely and the effects of synthetic cannabinoid use can be severely dangerous.
Two additional drug classes make up much of the other new psychoactive drugs available globally. They are phenethylamines, which make up 27 percent of the new substances, and cathinones, which make up eight percent of the new substances.
While keeping up with the chemical changes to achieve new combinations of drugs presents challenges for regulators, there are ways to reduce the use of psychoactive drugs. In the U.S., where national controls have been introduced to regulate synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts, synthetic cannabinoid use dropped from 11.4 percent in 2011 to 7.9 percent in 2013; bath salts use declined from 1.3 percent in 2012 to 0.9 percent in 2013.
Constant changes in chemical drug manufacturing can make regulations and controls difficult to keep current. However, recent declines in the U.S. related to bath salts and synthetic cannabinoids suggest that public awareness and regulations are at least somewhat effective in curbing such drug use.
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