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."

Explore further: EU drugs watchdog warns of 'legal highs' surge

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

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.

Despite the risks, mephedrone users in the UK are ready to try the next legal high

January 18, 2012
Since mephedrone was made illegal in the UK in 2010, the street price of the drug has risen while the quality has degraded, which in turn may have reduced use of the drug. New research published online today reveals that ...

Illegal drug users more likely to use new synthetic drugs and pharmaceuticals

October 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Methamphetamine users' use of synthetic cannabis products (such as Kronic) increased from ten per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent in 2011 an annual report on illegal drug use shows. Many of these synthetic ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

Medical students need training to prescribe medical marijuana

September 15, 2017
Although 29 states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana use for medical purposes, few medical students are being trained how to prescribe the drug. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis ...

Protein links alcohol abuse and changes in brain's reward center

September 8, 2017
When given access to alcohol, over time mice develop a pattern similar to what we would call "problem drinking" in people, but the brain mechanisms that drive this shift have been unclear. Now a team of UC San Francisco researchers ...

11 minutes of mindfulness training helps drinkers cut back

August 24, 2017
Brief training in mindfulness strategies could help heavy drinkers start to cut back on alcohol consumption, finds a new UCL study.

Marijuana use amongst youth stable, but substance abuse admissions up

August 15, 2017
While marijuana use amongst youth remains stable, youth admission to substance abuse treatment facilities has increased, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Report reveals underground US haven for heroin, drug users

August 8, 2017
A safe haven where drug users inject themselves with heroin and other drugs has been quietly operating in the United States for the past three years, a report reveals.

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.