Hospital del Mar Research Institute Hospital del Mar Research Institute

Addiction Marta Torrens


New abused substances

Emerging Drugs or “Legal Highs”: A new field of study within addictions

The so-called Emerging Drugs or Legal Highs are a set of new synthesized substances that in recent years are consumed for recreational reasons. Many of these compounds are usually synthesized in clandestine laboratories, where the molecule structure is changed of substances that are already on the international lists of banned substances. This makes it possible for these products to continue unregulated for the maximum possible time (products being “legal” until made illegal), meaning that many consumers equate legal with safe. Today there are very few objective data on the main pharmacological and toxic effects of these substances, and most of the information there is, is unclear and on many web pages were it is also possible to buy them.

In recent years, the consumption of these substances has risen, whether it is because some consumers see them as a replacement for illegal drugs or because with time they have become popular given the speed at which information travels on the Internet. This has raised concern among experts regarding toxicology, pharmacology, mental health or public health.

In order to find an answer to this problem, researchers from IMIM (Magí Farré, Marta Torrens and Ferran Marsà) are participating in the European Union Health Programme (Executive Agency for Health Consumers), more specifically in the RedNet Project (The Recreational Drugs European Network-Grant Agreement Number 20091216), a multi-centre 3-years programme (2010-2012) with collaboration from 8 European countries (United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary and Poland).

The aim of this study is to raise awareness among young people aged from 16 to 24 and mental health professionals on the effects of these substances and the main health risks associated to them; develop prevention tools making use of the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and to assess whether they are viable by opening new lines of research (e-Health) focusing on preventing and reducing harm in the field of addictions.

Experts believe it is necessary to have better collaboration at an international level to tackle this new trend that represents easy access to new psychoactive drugs over the Internet, which is currently growing very rapidly

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