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Q&A on 'legal highs'- ask a drugs expert your questions now! Watch

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    (Original post by Puddles the Monkey)
    Sure, but the issue with some new legal highs is that they're often new substances with no data *at all* on how they affect people short term and long term. At least with established drugs we do have decades of people taking them, although with substances like MDMA we're only just starting to find out what the long term effects might be. Really we need to do some proper scientific research/trials in to all these substances so we know what the effects are.

    That's why I'm in favour of regulating the recreational drug industry - one of the best things about living in the UK/EU is that I can walk in to a pharmacy and know that every packet of medicine is regulated and contains exactly what it says it does, with a list of side effects and contra-indications. It should be the same for recreational drugs.

    Then we can deal with the social and health implications of drug abuse separately.

    :beard:
    One of the brilliant* side-effects of this bill and others like it is that it effectively criminalises research, because the regulatory difficulties involved in acquiring and using such substances for legitimate research purposes increase by several orders of magnitude. Even the richest and most well-respected research bodies suffer extraordinary difficulties in getting studies approved and carried out, which means that not only will people who suffer negative effects be far less likely to seek medical help, but the medical profession will have no literature to refer to when treating people who've reacted badly to shiny new drugs, or even shiny old ones. It's going to be decades before we fully understand the impact of today's common recreational drugs, because the attitude of both the government and the regulatory bodies is "people shouldn't be taking them, therefore you have no reason to want to know what they do."


    *sarcasm implied. Subtext represents the grumpiness of the author and not that of TSR.
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    longsight

    At the moment part of the issue with regulation is that companies have to show a drug has a medical benefit greater than placebo in order to have a license to sell it. We don't have a framework for licensing recreational drugs, which is why the regulatory bodies don't license them. :beard:

    There was research done recently on ketamine as a therapy for depression. But ketamine already exists as a medicine...

    This stuff is confusing.
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    (Original post by Puddles the Monkey)
    longsight

    At the moment part of the issue with regulation is that companies have to show a drug has a medical benefit greater than placebo in order to have a license to sell it. We don't have a framework for licensing recreational drugs, which is why the regulatory bodies don't license them. :beard:
    That's certainly true for licensing; for pure research purposes, however, the regulatory bodies don't need to issue a license for anything, and there are research bodies out there willing to invest the money into research without expecting to license a therapeutic drug at the end of it. What the regulators do need to do is sign off on the procurement, purification, control and use of the samples being studied, which takes years of wrangling if the samples are technically illegal to possess or pass from one person to another, even in a sanctioned research context.

    The lack of a licensing framework certainly explains why pharmaceutical companies aren't even trying to research recreational drugs, but it doesn't explain, say, why it's taking upwards of three years for initial small-sample research into the effects of psilocybin to be approved, when it'd normally take a matter of months for legal controlled substances.
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    what a hypocritical ban. government shuts down companies selling legal highs but leaves all corner shops and supermarkets selling tobacco and alcohol alone. It is up to the user whether they use a drug responsibly or not and the fact is, everyone has a different drug choice, why should the government decide what drug we can or cannot take? Their drugs of choice are more dangerous for us. Besides, it only drives legal highs into the black market.
    Disappointed and unsure what the point of this ban was.
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    (Original post by Inexorably)
    I really don't understand what they hope to achieve in this bill, they can't even agree upon the definition of 'psychoactive' and there is very little reason for them to turn around and say that drugs such as caffeine, tobacco and alcohol are fine, yet legal highs which exhibit the exact same effects are not.

    I expect nothing less from a backwards thinking conservative government, but this is really a complete facade and the wrong way to go about drugs.
    Oh yes, criticise the Conservative government for TRYING to change things. Some people on TSR act like the alternatives of Labour, UKIP would deal with issues any better.

    Not all 'legal' highs are bad but the majority are. I'm talking about the ones sold in head shops and online websites with companies sporting tacky molecular formula logos. Spice is a synthetic 'version' of Cannabis that has disastrous effects in comparison to the real thing. It is 'legal' while actual Cannabis is not! These substances simply cannot be on the streets. Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol do not cause effects like the majority of legal highs on the market. Alcohol is the worst out of the three yet it is the one that is widely accepted within society. That is the stupidity of society itself rather than purely the Government and governing bodies.

    The aim of the bill is stop websites and head shops supplying these substances that cause harm, sometimes more than illegal drugs. In many hospitals across the UK, these substances are causing havoc and the amount of people suffering with the consequences only seems to be increasing.
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    (Original post by Certified)
    Oh yes, criticise the Conservative government for TRYING to change things. Some people on TSR act like the alternatives of Labour, UKIP would deal with issues any better.

    Not all 'legal' highs are bad but the majority are. I'm talking about the ones sold in head shops and online websites with companies sporting tacky molecular formula logos. Spice is a synthetic 'version' of Cannabis that has disastrous effects in comparison to the real thing. It is 'legal' while actual Cannabis is not! These substances simply cannot be on the streets. Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol do not cause effects like the majority of legal highs on the market. Alcohol is the worst out of the three yet it is the one that is widely accepted within society. That is the stupidity of society itself rather than purely the Government and governing bodies.

    The aim of the bill is stop websites and head shops supplying these substances that cause harm, sometimes more than illegal drugs. In many hospitals across the UK, these substances are causing havoc and the amount of people suffering with the consequences only seems to be increasing.

    Alcohol causes way more havoc. You can't make the "legal highs are dangerous" argument. The ban was put in place because legal highs are deemed socially unacceptable to people in government. they don't take kindly to drug users. None of your arguments are valid simply for the reason that alcohol causes more money to the NHS, deaths and health problems in UK.
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    (Original post by Certified)
    Oh yes, criticise the Conservative government for TRYING to change things. Some people on TSR act like the alternatives of Labour, UKIP would deal with issues any better.

    Not all 'legal' highs are bad but the majority are. I'm talking about the ones sold in head shops and online websites with companies sporting tacky molecular formula logos. Spice is a synthetic 'version' of Cannabis that has disastrous effects in comparison to the real thing. It is 'legal' while actual Cannabis is not! These substances simply cannot be on the streets. Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol do not cause effects like the majority of legal highs on the market. Alcohol is the worst out of the three yet it is the one that is widely accepted within society. That is the stupidity of society itself rather than purely the Government and governing bodies.

    The aim of the bill is stop websites and head shops supplying these substances that cause harm, sometimes more than illegal drugs. In many hospitals across the UK, these substances are causing havoc and the amount of people suffering with the consequences only seems to be increasing.
    Four points here:

    • Banning drugs does not take them off the streets
    • Health consequences increase when drugs are banned because people don't seek help as readily if they know they've taken something illegal
    • Alcohol remains incredibly bad for the human body, but perfectly legal
    • The danger of any drug is proportionate to dosage, and safe dosage requires research and regulation


    Legal highs are being banned to serve a political aim, not a societal or scientific one. Drugs become safer to use by being well-regulated and well-studied, not swept out of view.
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    No laughing gas?
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    • Welcome Squad
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    Welcome Squad
    Welcome to Dr Bowden Jones for today's Q & A!

    Please feel free to ask any questions throughout the hour that he will joining us today!

    Thank you
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    (Original post by TSRUsername99)
    Thought it had been postponed indefinitely.

    Nice easy one.

    What is a psychoactive substance?
    Hi there,

    good question to get us started. A psychoactive substance is essentially something that changes the way someone thinks and feels. Typical changes are in perception, mood or level of alertness.
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    (Original post by quasa)
    healthcare professionals should be in charge of healthcare matters: not some jumped up grammar school twit with an economics degree from oxbridge who doesnt even know what hypertension is
    Hi Quasa,

    Drug problems are definitely a healthcare matter, but no only. At the clinic I work, we use a model often called bio-psycho-social. That means helping someone with drug problems in three ways. Firstly thinking about the medical (bio) needs- these might be detoxifying someone from a drug they have become dependent on, or offering treatment for cravings. The 'psycho' is for psychological approaches- these help the person improve their motivation to make the changes they want. Finally, the social refers to the broader environment- somewhere to live, having something meaningful to do.

    Only by combining all three approaches do you tend to see sustained recovery.
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    (Original post by Puddles the Monkey)
    Poppers aren't illegal I don't think....?
    Hi Puddles the Monkey,

    Poppers are exempt from the Psychoactive Substance Act.
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    (Original post by OwenBowdenJones)
    Hi Puddles the Monkey,

    Poppers are exempt from the Psychoactive Substance Act.
    Thanks for the reply

    Why were poppers made exempt?
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    (Original post by meg_goblinqueen)
    Criminalising substances has never made it safer. If people still want to use it, they'll find backstreet dealers, which will hand over the power to them. Wouldn't it be much safer if the government regulated and decriminalised drugs? The power then wouldn't be with someone who could put literally anything in what their selling, and just does it to make money. :iiam:

    But that's just the ramblings of a hippie...
    Hi Meg,

    Great question and straight to the heart of the debate. How much should people be allowed to take risks. This debate ranges from whether people should be forced to wear seatbelts to whether drugs should be regulated.

    The problem with the regulate and decriminalised debate is that there is no perfect answer for everything. For example, heroin remains harmful and in the arms of the illegal drug trade, while alcohol a legal, regulated drug causes even more harm across the UK population.

    Making something illegal affects different people in different ways. If someone is determined to use a particular drug, they will probably find it one way or another, whether it is legal or not. One the other hand, younger users, in their teens, might be put off by the risk of taking something illegal. Certainly some of my young users only take 'legal highs' because they don't want to risk a criminal record.
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    (Original post by OwenBowdenJones)
    ...
    What were the Parliament voting figures on the Psychoactive Substances Act?
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    (Original post by HucktheForde)
    1) is alcohol worse or drugs worse?

    2) is marijuana really that harmful to the body?

    3) What is the reason some liberal countries legalize marijuana without fear of abuse?

    4) Will a complete legalization of all drugs reduce drug abuse/addiction ?
    Hi HucktheForde,

    Thanks for your questions- really helpful for today's debate

    1. is alcohol worse or drugs worse?
    As a clinician, I think of alcohol as a psychoactive drug. The harms a particular drug cause depend on two thinks - the drug, and the person using the drug.

    For the drug- the harms relate to the strength (potency), how it is taken (injecting it is worst), how long it is taken for and its purity.

    For the drug user- harm will depend on genetic (is there a family history of drug problems), psychological health (problems like depression and anxiety are worsened by most psychoactive drugs) and physical health.

    All this is really important, because you should be able to work out your own personal risk depending on what you know about yourself and your family history and the choice you make about which drug you use and how you use it.

    2 & 3
    Cannabis can be harmful for some people and thinking about answer 1, if you have a history of mental health problems, particularly psychosis, then the risks dramatically increase. I'm not sure which countries you are thinking of, there has been a big change in the laws around cannabis in some states in the US and in some countries in Europe. I think all of the areas where this has happened are closely monitoring the impact.

    4. That is a great questions. I don't have the answer. Alcohol is more available and we have more harm. IF you look at other drugs, there does appear to be a link between availability and use.
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    (Original post by hovado)
    So art and emotive language could be considered psychoactive?
    Great point. Art and emotive language, along with a whole range of other experiences, are psychoactive, but the psychoactivity is natural - by which I mean produced by our normal, neurobiological processes.

    Psychoactive substances cause their effect by hijacking the normal pleasure processes and artificially super-charing them.
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    (Original post by Certified)
    Oh yes, criticise the Conservative government for TRYING to change things. Some people on TSR act like the alternatives of Labour, UKIP would deal with issues any better.

    Not all 'legal' highs are bad but the majority are. I'm talking about the ones sold in head shops and online websites with companies sporting tacky molecular formula logos. Spice is a synthetic 'version' of Cannabis that has disastrous effects in comparison to the real thing. It is 'legal' while actual Cannabis is not! These substances simply cannot be on the streets. Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol do not cause effects like the majority of legal highs on the market. Alcohol is the worst out of the three yet it is the one that is widely accepted within society. That is the stupidity of society itself rather than purely the Government and governing bodies.

    The aim of the bill is stop websites and head shops supplying these substances that cause harm, sometimes more than illegal drugs. In many hospitals across the UK, these substances are causing havoc and the amount of people suffering with the consequences only seems to be increasing.
    The bill shuts down headshops selling regulated products, where the manufacturers could be held accountable for the purity and composition, and forces people to buy from illegal suppliers.

    There is an abundance of research which shows conclusively that banning drugs stops nobody from using them. ****, you don't even need research, because this cancerous piece of legislation has already been tried in Ireland and it had EXACTLY THE RESULT I JUST SAID IT WOULD HAVE.

    This law is about appealing to idiot voters with their heads up their arses, it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with reducing harm, because we already know for a fact that it's not going to do that.
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    (Original post by Chilledtobits)
    In your view, in the near future, will the government's drug policy development process shift to being purely evidence-based rather than apparently primarily driven by a reactionary response to media scare stories (arguably without fully consulting scientific experts)? Do you believe that it's irresponsible of a society to allow politicians to dictate health policies without proper scientific consultation (for example, the sacking of Professor Nutt and the dismantling of his highly respected advisory body)?

    (My views don't reflect those of TSR as a whole)
    Hi there Chilledtobits,

    There is a really good evidence base for the treatment of drug and alcohol problems, and plenty of guidance from NICE (the national body which oversees clinical guidelines in the UK). Drug treatment works, and when properly delivered by appropriately trained staff, can be vital in helping someone with drug problems recover.

    With respect to how the Government seeks advice - the UK Government has an independent advisory board on drugs (known as the ACMD) and this makes recommendations to Government about the relative harm of drugs as they appear on the UK drug market. They are recommendations and the Government then needs to consider the wider context.

    There is less evidence relating to drug policy itself. If you look around the globe, what you see different countries trying different approaches. Perhaps it won't surprise you to hear that no-one has come up with a perfect solution. The use and harms of drugs present really complex problems both to the individuals and those around them. Globalisation and the internet have extended these problems beyond borders, making collaboration (both clinical and policy) essential.

    Will be get to a position where all decisions are evidence based? I hope so, but it does depend on the evidence being clear about what is best - something that can be surprisingly difficult to understand.
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    (Original post by AshEntropy)
    I'm really confused.. if legal highs are banned, won't people just move to the far more dangerous legal drugs: alcohol and cigarettes?
    Hi AshEntropy,

    You are my last question before we have to finish.

    You ask a really great question about what the effect of the psychoactive substance act will be. As a clinician, I expect it will affect different people in different ways. Some will be turned off the so-called legal highs once they are illegal and no available in headshops. Some users may still seek them out, And as you say some people may seek other drugs.

    The most important thing with legislation like this, is that it is evaluated to see whether it achieves what the Government intends it to do, and if there are an unintended consequences. As I understand it , the Government as planned a formal evaluation of the impact of the Act and will report back after 30 months. It will be really interesting to see this and it is encouraging that the impact is being looked at so carefully.

    As I mentioned in an earlier response, there is very strong evidence for treatment, but the evidence is less clear about drug policy. So, the evaluation is a great opportunity to develop understanding about the impact of this sort of approach.
 
 
 
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