Friday, November 03, 2006

Piperazines - what to do with an emerging 'legal high'?

The piperazines are a 'family' of drugs with similar chemical structures. Some amongst this group of drugs are used medically (including famously, Viagra) and others, (currently unlicensed as medicines and also not covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act) are in an as-yet unclassified legal wilderness and have found a market on the (annoyingly named) 'legal high' recreational drugs scene for their stimulant effect, similar to amphetamines or ecstasy, although of lower potency.

The emergence of such drugs has only recently grazed the media with some reporting in the Guardian and a recent edition of the New Scientist as well as some coverage in the dance music scene media.

Transform has produced a detailed briefing on these drugs, considering what the options might be for dealing with them without resorting to a heavy handed crackdown. Specifically this briefing looks at the experience in New Zealand where the drugs have been widely used for a number of years (without, reportedly, any significant public health harms) and where the government have opted to license the drug for sale under a new Class D classification - amended to to their existing ABC system similar to the UK's. The new 'Class D' acknowledges risk but puts in place a series of licensing criteria (age controls, packaging, dosage etc).

Whilst piperazines themselves are not a particular concern, this represents a very real step forward in drug policy thinking for the future - offering one of the worlds first new licensing systems for recreational drugs (not currently covered by the UN conventions). The UK's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will be considering this drug and the Class D concept in the near future and there exists a real possibility for a new and pragamatic 'third way' option to emerge in the UK, operating between absolute prohibition and the essentially unregulated 'legal highs' industry. It wouldn't be the answer to the problems of prohibition but would certainly be a step in the right direction and usefully help demonstrate how other drugs might be more effectively regulated in the future.

1 comment:

Skillipedia said...
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