Single Chemical Entity Legal Highs: Assessing the Risk for Long Term Harm
Carolyn B. McNabb, Bruce R. Russell, Daniele Caprioli, David J. Nutt, Simon Gibbons and Jeffrey W. Dalley
Affiliation: University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
A recent and dramatic increase in the emergence of novel psychoactive substances (‘legal highs’) has left many
governments unable to provide a timely response to an increasing number of potentially harmful drugs now available to
the public. In response to this rapid increase in lawful drug use, the UK government intends to implement temporary class
drug orders, whereby substances with a potential for misuse and harm can be regulated for a 12 month period. During this
period an investigation of the potential for harms induced by these drugs will take place. However, the short time-frame in
which information must be gathered, and the paucity of data available on novel psychoactive substances, means that
robust pharmacological and toxicological analyses may be replaced by extrapolating data from illegal drugs with similar
chemical structures. This review explores the potential pharmacology and toxicology of past and present ‘legal highs’ and
discusses the risks of failing to carry out in-depth scientific research on individual substances.
Keywords: Amphetamines, BZP, cocaine derivatives, designer drugs, hallucinogens, legal highs, mephedrone, party pills
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