Twenty four new psychoactive drugs were reported to the official European monitoring centre during 2009, the largest number ever reported in a single year.
All the new drugs were synthetic compounds, and included 9 cannabinoid (cannabis) like substances.
The growth in synthesised drugs, side-stepping current legal restrictions to enable fast market and internet sales of “legal highs” seems to have been the growth trend of 2009 with a reduction in MDMA in tablets sold as E’s and substitution with Piperazine mCPP like substances.
As the UK moves to legislate to cover these developments, the market will move to traditional criminal production and supply chains associated with established drug groups.
There is still no test available for any of these new drugs, making screening and detection difficult.
Under increasing pressure from the media, the UK government has introduced an amnesty for all mephedrone suppliers of existing stock and made the drug a class B substance.
The legislation attempts to cover all possible chemical variations and compound structures, which could have allowed a legal way round the ban. Mephedrone is now an illegal substance to possess, supply or import in the UK. Standard class B legal penalties apply upon charges brought by the police.
How Mephedrone will be treated and classified by Europe and the rest of the world remains unclear. It remains a legal chemical in many countries.
There is still no instant drug test for mephedrone available, making its use, problematic to detect or monitor.
The number of drug testing companies in the UK has fallen over the last 2 year as the industry consolidates. The cost of most onsite diagnostic tests has risen by almost 20% due in part to the weakness of sterling and rising import costs and transport costs. In 2008 there were 17 drug test companies active in the UK market. By 2010 this had fallen to 13, with only 9 reported to be operating in profit and sustainably.
Mike Garside, Director of Access Diagnostic Tests UK Ltd, who operate www.ukdrugtesting.co.uk & www.drug-testing-kit.co.uk comments : “while we have seen real growth in the drug testing sector, with more and more medium and small companies initiating drug and alcohol testing, the choice of UK suppliers has decreased, and the number of drug test manufacturers has decreased even further, so most of the branded drug testing products on offer are coming out of the same production lines. We are also starting to see further inflationary pressure in China, with both raw material and wage price increases putting pressure on factory prices. Without a strong Pound I would expect to see further price increases throughout 2010”