Drug experts slam reports with ‘misleading statistics’ on legal high deaths

The recent ‘misleading statistics’ published by National Program (NPSAD) on drug poisoning deaths again showed the dire need of a coherent list of substances attributed as legal high in UK. The onus of the death of 68 persons in 2012 has been laid upon such synthetic substances, which do not conform to as legal high or ‘New Psychoactive Substances’. The strongest blow came from two former members of Advisory Council on misuse of drugs, Dr. David Nutt and Dr. Leslie King, who condemned NPSAD saying everyday double number of people die of alcohol in UK than die of legal high in a year.

Professor Nutt and Leslie pointed out that 17 out of 68 deaths in 2012 were held responsible for p-methoxyamphetamine (PMA) and three for p-methoxymethylamphetamine (PMMA) by NPSAD both of which fall in the list of controlled drugs since 1977.  These substances at present often sold as Ecstasy. The reason behind 13 other deaths in 2012 according to NSPAD is misuse of gammahydroxybutrate (GHB) although it has been already declared as controlled drug since 2003.  In a letter written to The Lancet, a scientific journal, as members of Scientific Committee on Drugs they criticized NPSAD for mentioning Khat, a herbal chewing stimulant, anabolic steroids and a slimming drug called DNP of being legal highs, which are neither new nor psychoactive drugs. Even misuse of phenazepam a medical drug also has been interpreted as the rationale behind deaths due to new psychoactive drugs.

In views of Professor Nutt, these reports reek of political and media influence. The government should enlist legal highs in such a manner so that people do not end up having wrong product. They should also focus on providing a universal definition of what stands as a novel psychoactive substance to help researchers in their work.

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