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July 22, 2016


The UK-based Novel Psychoactive Treatment UK Network (Neptune) has published an article titled "Harms of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) and their management". The article provides an overview of the pharmacology of synthetic cannabinoinds,  strategies for identifying and assessing acute harms in medical settings, management of acute intoxication as well as information on harms from longer term use of synthetic cannabinoids.

Download "Harms of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) and their management" (1MB PDF)

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July 8, 2016


An article has been recently published on the tech blog Gizmodo titled "There really is an LSD shortage and here's why".  The article describes the global availability of LSD which appears to be on the decline, partly due a significant police seizure back 2000, which saw most of the global LSD supply seized.  It is also theorised that the death of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead meant that the band stopped touring, and these tours had been associated with significant LSD distribution throughout the United States.  This fascinating article provides a snapshot of the complex nature of global drug markets, and shows how LSD's future may well be in legitimate therapeutic research which has recently been re-started after a long hiatus. Whatever the cause of the decline in LSD availability, the gap in the market has been filled with a growing number of novel psychoactive substances such as the NBOMe-type hallucinogens, which are significantly more harmful than LSD.


Go to "There really is an LSD shortage, and here's why"

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March 31, 2016


The Mephedrone Handbook published in 2015 in the United Kingdom is a guide for drug workers and other professionals working with mephedrone users and also includes a section that focuses on novel psychoactive substances (NPS), the chemical families these compounds belong to, and the appropriate treatment response that could be tailored for people who experience problems with these drugs.

Check out the handbook here

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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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