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Calls For ‘Legal High’ Drugs To Be Banned

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 Calls For ‘Legal High’ Drugs To Be Banned

According to a BBC report (30 04 09) Psychiatrists are calling for a drug being sold as “a legal high” to be made illegal. The drug, has a similar effect to ecstasy (4-MMC) and is being freely sold as a “designer drug” on internet sites. The drug, which is snorted up the nose, has already been banned by a variety of countries, including Denmark, Finland and Israel.

It is thought 4-MMC is based on cathinone, the active ingredient in the plant khat, commonly used as a stimulant in East Africa. The government said its drug advisers were aware of 4-MMC and the issue was due to be discussed next month. The drug is sold by a host of websites and generally costs between £90 and £100 for 10 grammes - more than cocaine and ecstasy can often be found for.

However, psychiatrists from Glasgow’s Stobhill Hospital have warned it is addictive and can cause hallucinations and psychotic behaviour. As far back as (20 03 07 BBC) the UK medicines regulator were warning people to stay away from pills called BZP, another dangerous cocktail that acts as a stimulant, giving similar effects to amphetamines, or speed. BZP stands for Benzyl Piperazine, the main active ingredient is piperazine, which is more commonly used as an anti-worming medicine, in animals and humans.

According to Danny Lee-Frost, from the MHRA, who investigates the sale of unlicensed medicines has stated that “Our main concern is that people are being led to believe these are safe.

“They walk into a shop and see a sign that says ‘legal alternative’. “But it’s not legal and it’s not an alternative - it’s a dangerous medicinal product in its own right. People should not take it.” Sue Harrison, rues the day when a business contact gave her what she thought was an energy tablet. “Within five minutes I began to feel extremely ill,” she said.

“I was just getting worse and worse and they decided to put me on a hospital ward - I really thought at that time that I was going to die. I know it sounds very dramatic but something like this had never happened to me before in my life. It takes me all my time to have a paracetamol tablet - never mind something that would harm me.”

Sue Harrison spent two days in hospital and it was another fortnight before she returned to work. She is 44 and had never wanted to experiment with drugs. “I’m just very disappointed in myself - it’s something I will never ever do again. I relive it psychologically through flashbacks - but I need to highlight this to other people never to do this.”

In relation to 4-MMC, psychiatrist Dr Neeraj Bajaj, who will be addressing the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Addictions conference in Edinburgh on Thursday, said: “It seems to be a new drug that is being imported into the country.

“It is particularly attractive to people who do not want to break the law and buy drugs on the street. But it is just as dangerous.”

Dr Bajaj will tell the conference about a case he dealt with recently involving a young professional man. The married man started buying 4-MMC online and used it for 18 months. By the end he was using it twice a week and had started experiencing hallucinations as well as agitation, excitability and mania. He had become dependent on the drug and had to be admitted into a hospital psychiatric in-patient unit.

In addition, Dr Bajaj said he did not know how many people were using the drug in the UK, but said internet forums showed it was popular among young people who were going out to clubs and bars. “It is very similar to ecstasy. It gives people confidence and a feeling of euphoria, but it seems to be very addictive.”

A home office spokesman has said that “If a compelling case is made for any ‘legal high’ to be added to the list of controlled drugs because they pose a significant health and social problem, we will not hesitate to seek Parliament’s agreement to do so.”

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