Drugs: new psychoactive substances and prescription drugs - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Key Facts

  • Deaths involving new psychoactive substances ('legal highs') such as mephedrone increased by 79% from 29 in 2011 to 52 in 2012.
  • The number of new psychoactive substances reported by Member States to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime rose by 51% from 166 at the end of 2009 to 251 by mid-2012. This exceeds the total number of psychoactive substances (234) currently controlled by the international drug conventions.
  • Operation Burdock, a multi-force operation in 2013 which targeted suppliers of new psychoactive substances across the country, resulted in
    • 73 warrants being executed and 44 arrests made.
    • The seizure of: half a kilogram of controlled new psychoactive substances in Huddersfield and Oldham, a firearm in London, £6,000 from a search in Cumbria, and the discovery of a drugs factory in Hampshire.
    • Police officers making personal visits to 274 people who had purchased new psychoactive substances from online distributors and writing to a further 574 to warn them of the dangers of using products labelled as 'legal highs.'
  • Deaths involving the prescription painkiller Tramadol have increased by 300%, from 43 a year in 2004 to 175 a year in 2012.
  • The total number of drug-related deaths in 2012 was 2597.

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Prepared 20 December 2013