Study to look at the impact of legal alternatives to illegal drugs

November 14, 2012

The use of legal substances that mimic the effects of illegal drugs appears to be on the rise in Australia, yet little is known about their long-term impact on users.

Deakin University health researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Tasmania and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, are running a study to better understand Australian's experiences of using these substances, referred to as emerging psychoactive substances.

"There has been a lot of research conducted in Europe and the United Kingdom looking at why people take these substances and the harm they report experiencing as a result. However, there is relatively little information from the Australian perspective," said Deakin public health expert Matthew Dunn.

"In Australia we do not have a good understanding of who is using these substances, and we have no knowledge as to why they are using them. Are they people who are already using illegal drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine? Are they people who have never used an illegal drug in their life? These are important questions when considering how we respond to these emerging substances, as well as how we design and disseminate education and harm reduction messages to those who may use these substances."

The researchers are calling on people to share their experiences, good and bad, of using legal and illegal drugs through an online, anonymous and confidential questionnaire.

There is a wide range of substances on the market that mimic the effects of cannabis, stimulants like methamphetamine or cocaine, ecstasy and psychedelics like LSD. Some of these are sold online as legal alternatives to , yet many are in fact illegal in Australia, Dr Dunn explained.

"With the UK experiencing a rise in harm attributed to emerging and research indicating that efforts to make them illegal is not seriously dissuading use, we need to take a thorough look at the situation here to be sure our response to these substances is appropriate in the Australian context," he said.

"There is a gap in our knowledge of who is using these and why, and what impact this is having on their wellbeing. The results of our study will go some way to filling these gaps."

More information: People interested in taking part in the study can fill in the online questionnaire at healthsurveys.deakin.edu.au/opinio/s?s=264

Related Stories

Buying 'legal highs' from the Internet is a risky business

May 20, 2011

Many drugs sold as 'legal highs' on the internet do not contain the ingredients they claim. Some instead contain controlled substances and are illegal to sell over the internet. These are findings of Dr. Mark Baron, who bought ...

EU drugs watchdog warns of 'legal highs' surge

November 15, 2011

The rapid emergence of synthetic new drugs, often sold online as "legal highs," represents a significant challenge for policy makers in the coming decade, a European Union drugs agency said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Young adults found displaying symptoms of net addiction

October 17, 2014

In 2012, Allen Frances, MD, professor emeritus and former chair of the department of psychiatry at Duke University, cautioned that "Internet Addiction" could be the next new fad diagnosis, complete with "an exuberant trumpeting ...

Can 'love hormone' oxytocin protect against addiction?

March 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the University of Adelaide say addictive behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse could be associated with poor development of the so-called "love hormone" system in our bodies during early ...

Nicotine vaccine prevents nicotine from reaching the brain

May 2, 2012

If smoking a cigarette no longer delivers pleasure, will smokers quit? It's the idea behind a nicotine vaccine being created by MIT and Harvard researchers, in which an injection of synthetic nanoparticles prompts the immune ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.