Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

This psychoactive drugs trip isn't working

By Craig Motbey

The increasing pace and diversity of recreational drug development makes conventional approaches to drug control dangerous.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Recreational drug use has been with us forever, and so have the challenges that this use brings to medicine and society. But the nature of the modern drug scene has changed to such an extent that the health systems of the developed world face catastrophe if we fail to respond.

The best known from the current crop of so-called “novel” psychoactives are mephedrone in Europe and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) in North America. But a very large number of alternate drugs have joined these. In 2010 alone, European authorities identified the use of 41 new psychoactive drugs. This trend shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

With most of these drugs, our scientific knowledge of their effects and dangers is essentially zero. Detailed scientific investigation is not a quick process, and the toxicology of illicit drugs is not an area that receives a huge amount of research funding. It doesn’t attract a lot of charitable attention, and the big pharmaceutical companies don’t see a lot of profit in it.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.