Bengaluru: New psychoactive substances (NPS), also called the ‘legal highs’ or ‘illegal legals’, are posing a huge challenge to anti-drug and narcotics control agencies, because while they imitate the damaging effects of controlled narcotic and psychotropic drugs like cannabis, cocaine and opioids, the composition of NPS is confusing, far more potent and lethal than the traditional banned narcotic drugs.
“The influx of new NPS or designer drugs is alarming. They are adulterated drugs. Their composition is confusing, lethal and often difficult to screen and analyse. The drug cartels are playing havoc with NPS and a lot many youngsters are getting hooked onto these killer drugs,” said a senior Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) officer. “In the last few years, the trend in international drug trafficking has changed because of availability, tighter enforcement, stricter border control and increase in contraband drug prices. Traditional drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, heroin and other opioids are being replaced with NPS, such as ketamine and aminoindanes among others, in new molecular compositions. They are cheaper; can be bought online on the Dark Net or can be procured physically through a close-knit circle of peddlers and users,” he said.
The NCB has busted several underground chemical units, which are manufacturing illicit drugs and has also brought ketamine – an animal tranquiliser and hallucinogen and a dangerous psychotropic party drug, NBOMe – under the classified list of drugs. In February last year, the NCB, Bengaluru had intercepted an international courier package that was booked from an outlet in Koramangala and was being sent to Saudi Arabia.
The 166 blot strips (1.66 gm) had tested positive for 4-Methoxy-benzyl – Phenethyl-Amine, the most common variant of NBOMe.
The United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) in 2015 had issued a global advisory on NPS to member countries on “substances of abuse, either in a pure form or a preparation, that are not controlled by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, but which may pose a public health threat”.
The UN office on Drugs Control had clarified that the term “new” did not necessarily refer to new inventions. “Several NPS were first synthesised 40 years ago, but have recently become available in the market. NPS are proliferating at an unprecedented rate, posing a significant risk to public health and a challenge to drug policy. Often, little is known about the adverse health effects and social harms of NPS, which pose a considerable challenge for prevention and treatment. Monitoring, information-sharing and risk awareness are needed to counter this new drug problem,” stated the UNODC.