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February 25, 2016


ABC's "7.30 Report" recently broadcast a story titled "Deadly and illegal synthetic drugs still available over the shop counter."  In the story, reporter Matt Wordsworth describes the recent death of a 17-year old in New South Wales, which was related to his use of a synthetic cannabis product.  While the report focuses on New South Wales, similar issues are occurring here in Queensland, with two deaths last year in Mackay following the use of a synthetic cannabis product.  In this report, Matt Wordsworth purchases some synthetic cannabis and has the contents analysed by a forensic chemist to find out exactly what is in it.

Watch the full story here.

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November 13, 2015


Synthetic cannabinoids first emerged in Australia in 2009, with the product "Kronic" gaining widespread media attention.  Since this time, there have been hundreds of similar synthetic cannabinoids appearing on the drug market, and alongside this there has been evidence of significant harm.  An article has been published on The Conversation website, providing an update on some of the newer synthetic cannabinoids indicating the ever increasing potency of these products and evidence of harm.  The authors point out that in 2011 - 2013, the most commonly available synthetic cannabinoids were several times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in the cannabis plant.  By 2014 - 15, some synthetic cannabinoids were up to 700 times more potent than THC.

Go to "Labs make new, dangerous synthetic cannabinoid drugs faster than we can ban them."

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October 7, 2015


In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of new drugs hitting the market.  The cathinone-type stimulants have been one group of chemicals that have appeared in Queensland - probably the most well known being MDPV, sometimes referred to as "bath salts".  A close relative of MDPV is a-PVP (alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone), a potent stimulant which has a range of possible harms.  The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDAA) in conjunction with Europol have published a joint report on a-PVP, bringing together information from across Europe on the use and harms from this substance.  The report describes 106 deaths across Europe as well as a number of hospital presentations.

Go to EMCDDA-Europol Joint Report on a new psychoactive substance: a-PVP

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August 21, 2015


In recent years, a wide range of new psychoactive drugs have been developed which mimic the effect of already illegal drugs, but remain psychoactive. Probably the largest class of these new psychoactive drugs is the synthetic cannabinoids, such as "Kronic."  The actual chemical in "Kronic" is a drug known as JWH-018, named after its inventor John W. Huffman.  Huffman was investigating the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids, and invented a number of synthetic cannabinoids.  The Washington Post has tracked down John W. Huffman and interviewed him about his thoughts on what has occurred with his inventions.  Huffman never intended his substances to end up as recreational drugs, and he has a number of concerns about the potential health effects.

Go to "How this chemist unwittingly helped spawn the synthetic drug industry"

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July 17, 2015


There are media reports that up to 300 people have been hospitalised in Poland following the consumption of a novel psychoactive substance.  The identity of the substance involved is as yet unknown, however investigations are continuing.  This case is a reminder of the dangers posed by novel psychoactive substances, which continue to be developed, marketed and consumed throughout the world and here in Queensland.  In January this year two people in Mackay died after consuming a synthetic cannabinoid.  We will provide an update on the incident in Poland as more information comes to hand.

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June 19, 2015


Last week we posted a link to the findings from the Global Drug Survey 2015 (GDS 2015).  This online survey of drug users sample over 100 000 people from around the world, including over 4000 from Australia.  The founder of the Global Drug Survey, Dr Adam Winstock, has produced a video describing the findings from the GSD 2015 with regards to synthetic cannabinoid products.  These products are designed to mimic the effects of cannabis, but there is a significant body of evidence that these products are much more harmful than regular cannabis.  In this video, Dr Winstock provides an overview of the survey respondents reports about their experiences with synthetic cannabinoids, which Dr Winstock summarises as "really not nice."

Watch GSD 2015 Findings: Synthetic Cannabinoid Products

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March 27, 2015


The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDAA) has published a report titled "New psychoactive substances in Europe: An update from the EU early warning system."  The EMCDAA conduct regular tracking of new psychoactive substances in and this most recent report describes 101 new substances detected in 2014.  The synthetic cannabinoids continue to make up a significant proportion of new substances identified, however 2014 also saw a significant increase in the synthetic cathinones, a class that includes substances like MDPV and mephedrone.

Go to "New psychoactive substances in Europe: An update from the EU early warning system."

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February 20, 2015


The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has published a report titled "The Internet and Drug Markets: Summary of results from an EMCDDA Trendspotter study". The study aimed to map online drug markets and to better understand the role of social media, the sale of new psychoactive substances, online sales of medicinal products for illicit use, and the sale of drugs on the so-called dark net - encrypted online marketplaces simialr to the now defunct Silk Road.

Go to "The Internet and Drug Markets: Summary of results from an EMCDDA Trendspotter study".

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February 6, 2015


With the summer music festival season well underway a timely publication has been released in Europe, titled "The Manual of Psychedelic Support: A practical guide to establishing and facilitating care services at music festivals and other events."  The manual builds on decades of practice wisdom in managing difficult psychedelic experiences in entertainment settings.  It includes information on the principles and ethics of supporting people through difficult psychedelic experiences, recruiting teams, providing training, logistics of working in entertainment settings, risk management and more.  The manual has contributions from more the 50 people and organisations from around the world, with a diversity of experience in establishing and managing support services at music festivals and other entertainment settings.

Find out more at the Psych Sitter Website.

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October 31, 2014


Every year, the National Drug and Alcohol Research and Education Centre (NDARC) conduct two studies of regular drug users.   The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) and the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Study (EDRS) interview people in all states of Australia, and looks at trends in price, purity and availability of various drugs.   The results from the most recent study indicates that whilst heroin continues to be the most commonly injected drug of choice, the use of ice / crystal form of methamphetamine has increased significantly with purity reported as being "high".  Similarly whilst the most popular form of ecstasy consumed is in tablet form, there has been an increasing trend in the use of MDMA crystal which is considered a much more potent form of ecstasy.

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