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  • Boom in synthetic drugs a problem

    Author: AAP

A medical conference has heard the number of psychoactive substances that can be abused is booming, and causing more drug deaths in Australia.

There is a boom in the number of psychoactive substances that can be abused and the problem exists largely outside of existing illicit drug controls, a conference has heard.

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A UN report in 2013 identified almost 350 known "new psychoactive substances" - or NPS - that could trigger euphoria or hallucinations. This was up from about 250 a year earlier.

"The sheer volume is a problem ... and the number of NPS that exist at the moment exceeds the number of internationally controlled illicit drugs," Victoria Kueppers said on Friday.

"The new psychoactive substances are an increasing global problem and we are going to be faced with more deaths related to these substances.

"The trend certainly is increasing in Australia as well."

Dr Kueppers said NPS were often new chemicals developed for research purposes in the 2000s, and their effect and potential as recreational drug was then realised.

The rise of NPS drugs in Australia can be seen in the recent emergence of "synthetic cannabis" and similar so-called "legal high" products, which have captured the attention of law makers after being implicated in deaths in several states.

Websites offering a vast array of NPS drugs exist in darker recesses of the internet, Dr Kueppers said, and they often were sold as "research chemicals - not for human consumption".

Dr Kueppers said the NPS drugs could be more potent, and so carried higher risks, than conventional drugs.

She pointed to a case in 2014 where a young WA woman died within hours of taking "synthetic LSD".

"We don't know much about the long-term effects and it is really important to publish any findings on deaths related to NPS to widen the database," Dr Kueppers also told her peers at The Royal College of Pathologists Australasia annual conference.

"Not every tox (toxicology) death is going to be related to booze, weed and speed.

"It is important to bear in mind these substances are out there."

By Danny Rose

Copyright  AAP 2015


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