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5% Discount on Legal Highs, Salvia Divinorum and Everything Else From The Coffeesh0p

A Kick Up The Arse

Right. This blog, and myself, need a kick up the arse. The best way for that to happen is for me to give it a bit of a facelift, as now it looks like a faded book that’s sat on the shelf in direct sun­light for a few years.

The problem is, I’m crap at designing stuff. I love the thought of designing, but I always end up com­bining every single style I think looks good into some big cas­serole of a layout. So to force myself to not do that, I need a bit of help from you.

If you could please leave a comment with two or three words to describe the blog, that would be awesome. As I have no  idea how other people per­ceive this site, I think finding out would be a useful first step, then I can work on designing some­thing around a couple of those themes.

So, if you wouldn’t mind…

Posted in Synchronium |

Weed Maths

Plot the graph of this equation:

And this is the result:



I bet René Descartes is rolling in his grave.

Posted in Drugs | Tagged maths, weed |

How To Light A Cigar Underwater


Or at least, how to light a cigar under some kind of awesome cocktail!

The wife & I have just got back from the Domin­ican Republic where we cel­eb­rated our first anniversary. Got tonnes more work to do though, but I’ll try and update this blog again soon!

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged cigars, jokes |

The Best Clip Ever

I just pissed my pants for about 15 entire minutes at the 30 second clip from Family Guy. We imme­di­ately rewatched it during the episode a good three or four times, if only because we missed the pre­vious reply laughing like a pair of bas­tards.

Watch it Immediately.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged Family Guy, Stoned TV, terrorism |

The US & Harm Reduction

This post has been robbed in its entirety with per­mis­sion from the always-​​eloquent Neuro­bonkers.

newly leaked cable exposes the intense inter­na­tional pres­sure the United States placed on the United Nations to block the suc­cessful drug harm reduc­tion strategies we have in Europe. The sci­entific facts are astound­ingly clear regarding this issue. Harm reduc­tion is a par­tic­u­larly serious issue because it does not only save the lives of drug users but pre­vents the spread of HIV. Due to our strategies of harm reduc­tion such as meth­adone pro­grammes and needle exchanges for intra­venous drug users Europe has some of the lowest HIV rates in the world. America and Russia have the worst HIV rates in the developed world because both of these coun­tries do not prac­tice harm reduc­tion meas­ures. This message is par­tic­u­larly serious coming from the US because according to US law items which prevent HIV being trans­mitted are not only denied to health author­ities but they are actu­ally illegal to possess, there­fore pushing harm reduc­tion char­ities such as needle exchanges under­ground. If this were to happen here we would see levels of HIV sky-​​rocket towards the appalling levels seen in the United States and Russia. If this is not wor­rying enough the rhet­oric being used to support the US strategy is frankly sick­ening. The rhet­oric is that the more dan­gerous drug taking is, the less people will take drugs. The fact that this results in count­less unne­ces­sary deaths and trans­mis­sion of HIV which would oth­er­wise be com­pletely pre­vent­able is not considered.

In the cable the European standard of harm reduc­tion is described as an “EU Crusade on Harm Reduc­tion” (sic). The irony here is on a number of levels. Firstly, a “crusade” is a war based on the impos­i­tion on moral/​religious values. The US is con­ducting a crusade based on the mor­ality of drug abuse yet it is the US however who are accusing Europe of a “crusade on harm reduc­tion”. Secondly, this is clearly not a European crus­dade on harm reduc­tion, perhaps it could con­ceiv­ably be a crusade for harm reduc­tion but def­in­itely not on harm reduc­tion. Thirdly, assuming that is what they meant, a “crusade for harm reduc­tion” is perhaps the most poet­ic­ally, para­dox­ic­ally absurd descrip­tion of a basic health care prin­ciple I’ve ever heard. Fourthly, it is pat­ently obvious that it is the US and not Europe who is actu­ally entering a “crusade on harm reduc­tion” namely because they are the only ones cru­sading in any way shape or form with regard to this issue. (Ok, so are the Rus­sians but they’re just as barmy). Finally, I hope I need not explain the final tragic irony of describing the imposing of a new morally driven blanket ban on a basic health care prin­ciple that stops the spread of HIV as a “crusade”. The ori­ginal cru­sades res­ulted in a still existing blanket ban on the primary barrier to HIV trans­mis­sion and this is of course, the main reason we have a global HIV crisis in the first place. My only con­clu­sion is that this wording was a failed attempt at very dark humour. Trust the Amer­icans to fail at irony. Damn, I’ve just pissed off both of the world’s largest super­powers and the world’s largest reli­gion in one fell swoop. Maybe we should keep the nukes afterall. At least nukes don’t give us AIDS.

Foot­note: The title of para­graph four of the leaked cable is “Is it EU Solid­arity or (the) UK Leading the Crusade?“. If the Amer­icans insist on calling life saving harm reduc­tion a crusade and sug­gesting it is us that are leading the charge then this is perhaps the first crusade in our history that we can actu­ally be proud of.

Addendum: Alan Clear, the dir­ector of The Harm Reduc­tion Coali­tion reported the actual events that res­ulted from this only now released cable…

“Would the UN Member States assemble a polit­ical declar­a­tion almost identical to the last one? The 1998 version dealt with drug demand reduc­tion by adopting what we now know to be the expensive, inef­fective, and dis­astrous law-​​and-​​order route that has cost the US alone 40 billion per year – without sig­ni­fic­antly redu­cing either supply or demand – and made us the world’s largest jailer of our own people.

…Or would this be the year that member states would move towards a public health and human rights approach to drug policy?…

…to reject the inclu­sion of the term “harm reduc­tion” in the Polit­ical Declar­a­tion being endorsed at this meeting is extremely short sighted and prob­lem­atic. It puts the US in the pos­i­tion of sitting in judg­ment of suc­cessful pro­grams being run by many coun­tries glob­ally; it also ignores the very suc­cessful use of harm reduc­tion in the United States to stem the tide of over­dose deaths, low threshold drug treat­ment and Hep­at­itis C treat­ment and care in major centers including New York City. Worst of all, it negates the sound science behind inter­ven­tions like safer injec­tion spaces or heroin pre­scrip­tion programs.

…This meeting is unfor­tu­nately timed. Whereas the new Obama admin­is­tra­tion is making steps to move in a more pro­gressive human rights based dir­ec­tion, the ground­work for the drafting of the Polit­ical Declar­a­tion has taken place with State Depart­ment employees who took their dir­ec­tion from the pre­vious admin­is­tra­tion and haven’t yet been presented with a new agenda. Sadly it will be another 10 years before there will be an oppor­tunity to revisit UN drug policy again.”

The full Leaked cable


Ref­er­ence IDCreatedReleasedClas­si­fic­a­tionOrigin
09UNVIEVIENNA312009-​​01-​​27 16:042011-​​04-​​28 00:12UNCLASSIFIED/​/​FOR OFFI­CIAL USE ONLYUNVIE

DE RUEHUNV #0031/01 0271621
R 271621Z JAN 09

E.O. 12958:  N/A
SUBJECT:  Breaking the UNGASS Impasse on "Harm Reduction"
REF:  A) UNVIE 00001, B) Tsai-Pala 1/23 email
¶1. (U) This is an action message for INL/PC and IO/T.  Please see
paragraph 7.
¶2. (SBU) Negotiations for the UNGA special session have hit an
impasse, created by EU insistence on adding the controversial term
"harm reduction" to various parts of the draft UNGASS action plan
and political declaration.  While Canada, an opponent of the term's
inclusion, is considering conceding to EU demands, other opponents
are standing firm with the U.S. in preventing such a problematic
element's inclusion.  Mission has engaged counterparts at every
level, from experts to ambassadors in an attempt to break the
impasse and find compromise language.  Mission believes there is
increasing pressure within the EU to resolve this gridlock and avoid
an embarrassing showdown at the March Commission on Narcotic Drugs
(CND) but some delegations will be inclined to hold this issue
hostage up until the opening of the CND, in hopes the US will
relent.  To facilitate EU compromise, Mission recommends that the
Department reach out to various capitals and the European Commission
to help underscore the firmness of U.S. resolve-both to our allies
and to the EU, before the EU horizontal group meeting in Brussels on
February 4.  Mission has urged like-minded countries here (Japan,
Russia, Colombia) to take similar actions.  End Summary.
EU Crusade on "Harm Reduction"
¶3.  (SBU) There have been difficult negotiations in Vienna on the
"harm reduction" issue in the demand reduction chapter of the draft
UNGASS action plan (Ref A) and political declaration.  The Czech
Republic reiterated this demand on January 26 on behalf of the
presidency.  The plan will be annexed to the political declaration
expected to be issued by ministers attending the high-level segment
of the UNGASS review meeting in Vienna March 10-12, 2009.  The main
divide is between EU advocates for including "harm reduction" in the
plan, and those who oppose such inclusion, namely U.S., Russia,
Japan, Colombia and possibly Canada.  Although opposed to harm
reduction, Canada's experts in Ottawa are receptive of a recent
compromise (including the term in a footnote rather than in the
text), and we understand that Ottawa will have a discussion on the
political level to decide how to handle this issue.
Is it EU Solidarity or
UK Leading the Crusade?
¶4. (SBU) Recent meetings to reach a compromise with EU had been
inconclusive.  The USG (United States Government) cannot accept including the specific term
"harm reduction" in any part of the action plan.  The USG also wants
the section to focus on "prevention, treatment and rehabilitation"
in the consideration of any demand reduction strategy.  The EU, on
the other hand, appears less concerned about treatment and
rehabilitation.  The EU presented a very hard-line position in the
opening rounds of these negotiations in mid-January.  Subsequently,
Mission conducted extensive consultations at all levels, including
between Ambassador and the DCM with their counterparts.  Mission's
conclusion is that the EU may not have a tightly united front.  The
UK is the primary and most vocal crusader on this issue, although
Netherlands does lend occasional support, as do Spain and the EC.
Importantly, other EU countries, initially implacable, appear to be
wavering (e.g., Germany).   Still others have expressed varying
degrees of flexibility, including France, Belgium, Ireland, and
Italy, as well as Sweden, which is closest to the U.S. position.
Next Steps for Mission
¶5. (SBU) Mission continues to engage with both skeptics and
proponents of "harm reduction."  To that end, Mission plans to
offer alternative language, previously sent to INL/PC (Ref B) at the
next informal consultations.  Mission's language is based on the
November 2008 UNGA resolution on international drug control
(A/63/432), which found consensus in New York.  Importantly, that
language was co-sponsored by 58 countries, including  the U.S. and
at least 7 EU countries.  Mission will propose inserting "care" into
the language as a way to address EU concerns.  U.S. proposed
language for paragraph 9 of the draft Action Plan, therefore, would
 "Develop, review and strengthen, as appropriate, prevention,
treatment, care and rehabilitation of drug use disorders and to take
measures to reduce the social and health consequences of drug abuse
as governmental health and social priorities, in accordance with
international drug control treaties, and where appropriate, national
(Note:  The 7 EU co-sponsors of the November 2008 UNGA resolution
are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, and
Latvia.  End Note.)
¶6.  (SBU) Mission has shared this language with Japan, Russia, and
Colombia, as well as the CND chair Namibia, who is chairing the
current negotiations on the political declaration.  Offering this
language will allow Mission to more constructively engage the EU and
the chair of the working group (Iran) (who has taken a very active
role in trying to find consensus).  Although Iran chair had
originally scheduled another informal meeting for the afternoon of
January 27, Namibian ambassador told Missionoffs and their Japanese
and Russian counterparts the morning of January 27 that she would
announce the cancellation of that meeting until further notice.  She
said she had heard from many delegations that there should be a
"cool down" period on this issue.  According to her, many
delegations are opposed to the EU position, even though they did not
speak up on the floor.
¶7. (SBU)  Mission has suggested like-minded countries (Russia,
Japan, Colombia) to intervene at the ambassadorial level in Vienna.
We have also suggested that their capitals demarche relevant
countries.  Mission will also ask the G-8 chair in Vienna, the
Italian ambassador, to convene a meeting of the G-8 members to
underline the same.  By engaging EU member states in a different
context, it may help them to reevaluate their dogmatic and
unproductive approach.
Recommended Actions
¶8. (SBU)  Action Request:  The EU's horizontal group will have its
next coordination meeting on drugs in Brussels on February 4.  In
order to break EU unity on this issue, and thereby create a climate
in Vienna conducive to compromise, Mission recommends engagement
both with skeptics and supporters of the issue.  Specifically,
Mission recommends;
 (i)  Department instruct USEU to contact the European Commission's
horizontal group on drug control (Carol Edwards at the EC).
Instructions should note that the potential for embarrassment is
great for the EU, should the EU hold hostage an entire document
because of one sub-issue in one section of the action plan..
Mission believes that each passing week without compromise will add
increasing pressure within the EU to resolve this issue and prevent
embarrassment for national ministers planning to attend the CND.
Instructions should also note that the March CND will be the first
foray of the Obama administration into the international drug arena,
and all sides should be keen to make it a positive one.
(ii)  Department instruct U.S. Embassies Tokyo, Moscow, and Bogota
to reach out to host governments and emphasize our need to continue
supporting each other, as well as the firmness of U.S. resolve and
the continuity of our policy vis-`-vis "harm reduction."  It is
important that our allies on this issue remember that the burden is
on the EU, as the proponent of the term, to convince other
delegations-not the other way around.
(iii)  Department instruct U.S. Embassy Ottawa to persuade Ottawa at
a political level that it should at least consider remaining silent
on the EU proposal for the time being, and/or until the EU shows
more flexibility.  Although there is pressure in Vienna on all
delegations to commit to the EU proposal, Ottawa should remember
that there is no need to accede to hard-ball tactics, and that the
goal is for all sides to find common ground.
(iv)  Department instruct U.S. Embassy London to underscore the need
to find common ground.  Mission believes that UK's expert in Vienna
is a driving force behind the current EU approach, and that she may
find herself isolated within the EU as other delegations begin to
feel the urgency for compromise.
(v)  Department instruct U.S. Embassy Prague to reaffirm with the EU
presidency the importance of finding common ground.  Instructions
should note the importance the USG places on getting US-EU relations
off on the right foot, and that nothing related to the CND
jeopardizes that common goal. Instructions should also note that the
Czech Republic was one of the co-sponsors of the November 2008 UNGA
resolution on International Drug Control (A/63/432).
(viii)  Finally, that Department instruct U.S. Embassies Berlin,
Brussels, Paris, Dublin, Rome, and especially Stockholm (as well as
any other capital who may be more sympathetic to the need for
compromise) to underline the firmness of our position, and the
importance of finding common ground for the March ministerial
meeting.  Instructions should also note that Belgium, Ireland and
Italy co-sponsored the November 2008 UNGA resolution A/63/432.  In
particular, it should be noted that the current EU proposal
effectively eliminates the draft's previous focus on prevention,
treatment and rehabilitation.  Although there may be some
disagreement on "harm reduction," Mission believes all delegations
should be concerned that the elimination of prevention, treatment
and rehabilitation from their prominent place in the draft may give
the wrong signal that member states are no longer focusing on the
critical need to reduce the demand for drugs.

If you liked that, you’ll love the rest of Neuro­bonkers, so go and read it all. You can also follow him on twitter if you’re that way inclined.

Posted in Drugs | Tagged government, harm reduction, Vienna |

The Drugs

Sorry about the lack of updates — we’ve turned to the drugs.


Posted in Drugs | Tagged addiction, the drugs, tv |


Sorry about the lack of activity. We’ve been dead busy since the new year — Coffeesh0p’s had more orders for legal highs and such so far this year than for all of 2008, and I’ve been optim­ising like a bastard, among other things.

Hope­fully, I’ll write some­thing soon about what I’ve been up to when I’ve the time, but for now, here’s some music while you wait:

Posted in About This Site |

Our Thoughts on New Year's Eve

Fuck Going Out

Ser­i­ously. Going out for New Year’s Eve is our idea of hell. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not a pair of miser­able bas­tards who hate fun — in fact, here’s an old rave photo to prove it:

While I might look unin­ten­tion­ally serious as shit in the above picture, I can assure you, we were having a bril­liant time.

So, why is going out on NYE a ter­rible idea? Well…

Everyone goes out

More people out means you’ve got less per­sonal space, so less room to dance or sit, and more person/​person col­li­sions of every mag­nitude — whether that be an acci­dental elbow to the ribs or some wazzock spilling your pint, more people in one loc­a­tion will always lead to more than the usual amount of viol­ence. Massive gangs of people seem to think their shared invin­cib­ility is expo­nen­tially pro­por­tional to the size of their group, which inev­it­ably ends up with more dickish beha­viour in general.

More people also means more com­pet­i­tion for both the bar and in sum­moning appro­priate trans­port for the journey home. Both of those situ­ations also bring to mind my next point…

Everything Costs A Fortune

£79.95 for a pint and 4x the usual taxi price (the latter isn’t an exag­ger­a­tion) coupled with the ter­rible “con­sumer exper­i­ence” I just men­tioned auto­mat­ic­ally make me resent the entire night. This is coming from someone who’s routinely paid £2.50 for a bottle of water without com­plaining because it didn’t take him fucking for-​​ever to get served.

Everyone MUST get as drunk as possible

Appar­ently, if your liver doesn’t explode from acute alcohol pois­oning or you can’t ignite your breath, then it’s not a good night out. For a minority of drinkers, that applies to every Sat­urday night, but that school of thought becomes all the more inclusive in the context of New Year’s Eve. As we all already know, this leads to more viol­ence & aggres­sion, dan­gerous driving and both the average size and fre­quency of sick splat­ters that adorn the pave­ments. Oh, and the toilets… my god, the toilets. Anyway, moving on…

Pressure to have the BEST time

“The turning of the stars bring a time when my secrets can give you immor­tality. But when that time has passed, those fleeting minutes gone, the secret is worth­less, until once again the stars unlock its power.”

- Kal­likrates /​ DJ Fresh

During a single orbit of Neptune around our own star, we get to cel­eb­rate NYE less than 165 times. As such, it’s imper­ative that the night be TOTALLY AWESOME!!!1eleven!! because its ages ’til the next one. A tall order for any other night, but when you’re already having to com­pensate for the increased dick­head pop­u­la­tion, time-​​to-​​service at the bar and the king’s ransom you’re expected to fork over per drink, it’s no wonder everyone has such a short fuse. This might mani­fest itself as viol­ence, streams of tears & mascara or any­thing in between.

No pressure on the venue

Venues can get away with murder on NYE. They just have to book some alright DJs before they inev­it­ably sell out. Why book the best of the best when you’ll get lit­er­ally zero more people attending? That extra cash saved can be put towards booking someone big to draw a bigger crowd on any other night.

It's cold

Jesus Christ, is it cold. I have a beard and tend to wear jeans on a night out and think it’s cold. A typical girl out on Birmingham’s Broad Street, however, somehow con­tinues to survive wearing much, much less — I’d be cold on a breezy summer’s after­noon wearing the kind of thing they obvi­ously find accept­able. The smoking ban also means that your venue of choice will prob­ably have some doors per­man­ently ajar, as though the doorway itself were designed as the most effi­cient way to transfer thermal energy out of the building.

…so that’s why we stayed in.

Posted in Drugs, Personal | Tagged alcohol, new year's eve, raves |

Merry Christmas

Posted in Synchronium |

Legal Highs & The 2010 Drug Strategy

Last week saw the release of the UK Government’s 2010 drug strategy, and so far, this is all I’ve had time to say on the matter:

While I may have spent the time since doing some hard­core diver­si­fic­a­tion (more on that at a later date…), what the gov­ern­ment actu­ally pro­poses sounds more ridicu­lous as each day passes, so I’ve gone through all the new pub­lic­a­tions, pulled out everything related to legal highs and dis­played them below for your con­veni­ence. I’ve also listed a few other choice quotes that stood out at the time (I’m sure there’s more to be found, but I’ve only skimmed it). My com­ments are in pink.

Drug Strategy 2010 Main Document

Over the last few years, a new trend has emerged. There is emer­ging evid­ence that young people are taking new legal chem­icals instead of or as well as other drugs. Most of these sub­stances have never been tested for use by humans. The imme­diate risks they pose or the long term damage they are doing, are often not imme­di­ately apparent as their harms are unknown.
  • If the problem is “young people”, why not restrict it like alcohol?
  • Even if legal highs were tri­alled like phar­ma­ceut­icals, they’d still never be approved for con­sump­tion because they’re largely recreational
This Gov­ern­ment is com­mitted to an evidence-​​based approach. High quality sci­entific advice in this complex field is there­fore of the utmost import­ance. This is why we value the work and inde­pendent advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which has experts from fields that include science, medi­cine, law enforce­ment and social policy. We are com­mitted to both main­taining this expertise and ensuring the ACMD’s mem­ber­ship has the flex­ib­ility to respond to the accel­er­ating pace of chal­lenges. The proper con­sid­er­a­tion of that advice is at the heart of enabling us to deliver this strategy, including the reforms required to tackle the problem of emer­ging new psy­cho­active sub­stances (‘legal highs’).
  • There’s plenty of evid­ence showing pro­hib­i­tion doesn’t work — con­sump­tion will stay the same (if not actu­ally increase); sales can’t be taxed, purity will decrease, users are less likely to seek help in an emer­gency. Actu­ally, here’s some evid­ence our former MP sent to Alan Johnson last year when he sacked David Nutt.
  • When mephed­rone was banned, it was clear the gov­ern­ment intended to ban it anyway, pres­suring the ACMD to hurry the fuck up while redu­cing a lot of their hard work to a mere formality.
  • The gov­ern­ment wants to scrap the require­ment to have sci­ent­ists on the ACMD. More info on that at The Guardian.

The Gov­ern­ment is determ­ined to address the issue of so called ‘legal highs’. We know that these sub­stances can pose a serious threat, espe­cially to the health of young people. We need a swift and effective response and are there­fore redesigning the legal frame­work through the devel­op­ment of tem­porary class drug orders so we can take imme­diate action. We will improve the forensic ana­lyt­ical cap­ab­ility for new psy­cho­active sub­stances and will estab­lish an effective forensic early warning system.

UKBA are under­taking enforce­ment action at the border to target and inter­cept con­sign­ments of these new sub­stances. The Serious Organ­ised Crime Agency (SOCA) is cur­rently devel­oping approaches to identify importers, dis­trib­utors and sellers of ‘legal highs’ and disrupt their ven­tures, including activity against web­sites. We are also intro­du­cing tech­no­logy at the borders to identify these new types of drugs.

These enforce­ment activ­ities will be com­bined with pre­ven­tion, edu­ca­tion and treat­ment. We will
con­tinue to emphasise that, just because a drug is legal to possess, it does not mean it is safe and it is
likely that drugs sold as ‘legal highs’ may actu­ally contain sub­stances that are illegal to possess.

Legal means safe!

  • First para­graph sug­gests more powers to ban stuff is the only pos­sible way of “addressing” the “issue”. Very much shoot first, ask ques­tions later…
  • Activ­ities against web­sites, which aren’t actu­ally breaking the laws? Hmm.
  • Of course legal doesn’t mean safe — alcohol and tobacco are legal, after all. Do kids think it accept­able enjoy their Frosties with a splash of ice cold ethanol every morning?
  • Also, banning some­thing because sellers might sell an illegal sub­sti­tute instead is mental. If I went to the super­market and cheekily sprinkled cocaine on the dough­nuts, would dough­nuts be banned? Obvi­ously the best way to tackle this fairly serious issue would be through reg­u­la­tion. Obvi­ously.

Strategy Impact Assessment

Descrip­tion and scale of key mon­et­ised costs by ‘main affected groups’

The tem­porary banning power for so-​​called “legal highs” is an enabling power and there­fore has no direct impact. There will be some limited addi­tional eco­nomic and fin­an­cial costs incurred by Gov­ern­ment as a result of the intro­duc­tion of the Drug Strategy; however we have not included the value of these mon­et­ised costs owing to the early phase of devel­op­ment and the poten­tial com­mer­cial sens­it­ivity of such analysis.
  • Costs will surely be massive, as my next comment suggests


There has also been the emer­gence of “legal highs” as a new trend with young people taking new legal chem­icals instead of or as well as other drugs. Most of these sub­stances have never been tested for use on humans and the imme­diate risks they pose or the long term damage they cause are often not imme­di­ately apparent as the harms are unknown.
Legis­la­tion is required to intro­duce a new system of tem­porary bans on new “legal highs” while health issues are con­sidered by inde­pendent experts.
  • How much time and money will it cost to fully analyse a sub­stance? If 10 new sub­stances emerge around the same time, that cost increases tenfold, along with the pres­sure to com­plete each ana­lysis within the allotted time­frame (which isn’t spe­cified any­where in these doc­u­ments — more on that later).
  • A great deal of the evid­ence con­sidered by the ACMD comes from users, such as forum posts, hos­pital visits or amnesty bins outside nightclubs, for example. How will they pick up on idio­syn­crasies affecting say one in 1000 people? I somehow doubt that a rushed report based on poor evid­ence will be par­tic­u­larly thorough.
  • How dan­gerous does some­thing have to be to earn itself a ban? Any­thing psy­cho­active is poten­tially dan­gerous, as an altered mental state could lead to an acci­dent or some­thing; driving while tired is dan­gerous enough to warrant loads of signs along the motorway but we’re not banning tired­ness (although, that would be awesome if it were somehow pos­sible!). I just can’t imagine a report con­cluding “Naw, it’s totally fine!” about any­thing that isn’t com­pletely inert.
  • The ACMD have reported before about what a stupid idea it was to upgrade can­nabis to class B, but the gov­ern­ment went ahead anyway. What’s stop­ping them from doing the same in these situ­ations? This whole idea looks like an under­hand way of intro­du­cing a new super­charged banning stick, like using anti-​​terror legis­la­tion to silence pro­testers or harass minorities.

Redu­cing Supply

Reduce the risk of harm from new psy­cho­active sub­stances, so called “legal highs”: by intro­du­cing a system of tem­porary bans while the health issues are con­sidered by inde­pendent experts

We will estab­lish an effective forensic early warning system

We will intro­duce tech­no­logy at the borders to assist with the iden­ti­fic­a­tion of new drugs

Work with UK based internet pro­viders to ensure they comply with the letter and spirit of UK law

Cost /​ Benefit

PolicySummary of Costs /​ Bene­fits
Reduce the risk of harm from new psy­cho­active sub­stances, so called “legal highs”: by intro­du­cing a system of tem­porary bans while the health issues are con­sidered by inde­pendent expertsCostsIt is not pos­sible to quantify the costs of these pro­vi­sions. As the pro­vi­sions intro­duce an enabling power for tem­porary bans, rather than con­trolling any spe­cific sub­stance, it has not been pos­sible to quantify the costs. The use of this pro­vi­sion will depend on the rate at which new poten­tially harmful “legal highs” are intro­duced to the UK market. A full Reg­u­latory Impact Assess­ment will be com­pleted on each occa­sion that the power is used, taking into account any evid­ence on pre­val­ence of avail­ab­ility and use, in the same way when a drug is brought under per­manent control under 1971 Act.Bene­fitsFor the reasons given, it is not pos­sible to quantify the bene­fits of these pro­vi­sions. The over­arching benefit of a faster legis­lative response is to reduce the like­li­hood of a crim­inal market devel­oping with asso­ci­ated enforce­ment costs as well as lim­iting both poten­tial harm to indi­vidual users health, including depend­ency, with asso­ci­ated treat­ment costs and wider soci­etal harms.
We will estab­lish an effective forensic early warning systemCostsThere will be forensic and general admin­is­trative costs incurred by Gov­ern­ment as a result of this policy. However, we cannot mon­etise these costs owing to the early phase of devel­op­ment of this policy option and the poten­tial com­mer­cial sens­it­ivity of such ana­lysis.Bene­fitsThere will be non-​​monetised bene­fits incurred by Gov­ern­ment as a result of this policy. The use of this pro­vi­sion will depend on the rate at which new harmful ‘legal highs’ are intro­duced to the market. We can expect the soci­etal bene­fits of reduced harm from new ‘legal highs’ through the ability to identify and there­fore ban them more quickly.
We will intro­duce tech­no­logy at the borders to assist with the iden­ti­fic­a­tion of new drugs.CostsThere will be forensic and tech­no­lo­gical costs incurred by Gov­ern­ment as a result of this policy. However, we cannot mon­etise these costs owing to the early phase of devel­op­ment of this policy option and the poten­tial com­mer­cial sens­it­ivity of such ana­lysis.Bene­fitsIt is not pos­sible to quantify the bene­fits of these pro­vi­sions. The use of this pro­vi­sion will depend on the rate at which new harmful ‘legal highs’ are intro­duced to the market. We can expect the soci­etal bene­fits of reduced harm from new ‘legal highs’ through the ability to identify and there­fore ban them more quickly.
  • No estimate of the cost for even a single ana­lysis. This bit also points out that these ana­lyses are identical to those already per­formed before a regular ban, so you’d think they’d include an estimate at least.
  • The overall tone sug­gests, once again, that these ana­lyses are no more than a form­ality. They don’t even con­sider what might happen should an ana­lysis con­clude something’s not that bad after all.

The ACMD's Response

What else do you think we can do to keep one step ahead of the chan­ging drugs markets?

Chan­ging drug trends can be iden­ti­fied at many levels, all of which should be mon­itored and inform­a­tion gathered so as to be aware of chan­ging drug markets and ulti­mately, harms to users. Reports may be gathered from the National /​ European level to local level con­cerning ini­tially, (among others), seizures, forensics, acci­dent and emer­gency admis­sions, internet based sales, service users etc. Such evid­ence should be used to inform drugs that are to be considered.

The internet has become a crit­ical vector in the devel­op­ment of drug markets for novel /​ legal highs. Mon­it­oring sales sites and con­ducting test pur­chasing (with forensic exam­in­a­tion of the products) provides key inform­a­tion on emer­ging trends and markets. At present this is an occa­sional aca­demic activity but there is a strong case for this to be routine.

  • So, the best way to “keep ahead” of the chan­ging market is by seeing what happens when people actu­ally use some­thing, which, as I men­tioned before, will be much less effective with a tem­porary ban in place.

Do you have a view on what factors the gov­ern­ment should take into con­sid­er­a­tion when deciding to invoke a tem­porary ban on a new substance?

The ACMD are responding sep­ar­ately to the Min­ister for Crime Pre­ven­tion on this issue. The ACMD’s con­sid­er­a­tion of the ‘trigger point’ for a Tem­porary Banning Power (i.e. factors), as sent to the Min­ister is:

The ACMD does not believe the point at which con­sid­er­a­tion is given to invoking a Tem­porary Banning Power should be too pre­scriptive. The purpose of the tem­porary banning power should be the pre­ven­tion of harms. There­fore, the ACMD con­siders that the trigger point should be ‘[on the avail­able evid­ence] there are reas­on­able grounds for con­sid­ering that a sub­stance does, or has, the poten­tial to cause harm’. As part of the ACMD’s initial con­sid­er­a­tion as to whether a tem­porary banning power should be invoked it will look to under­stand the iden­tity of the sub­stance, con­sider related sub­stances, con­sider any legit­imate uses and gather evid­ence inter­na­tion­ally and locally regarding the sub­stance and its harms (including, for example, A&E admis­sions, known phar­ma­co­logy, depend­ency and social harms etc.). However, it is not pos­sible to detail the ‘level’ of evid­ence that would be required, nor what that evid­ence would be – evid­ence, and the rel­ative import­ance of each type of evid­ence, will depend on the sub­stance being considered.

  • The key phrase here is “[we can temp ban shit if] a sub­stance does, or has, the poten­tial to cause harm” — as I men­tioned before, any­thing has the poten­tial to cause harm. ANYTHING.

Should there be a greater focus on treating people who use sub­stances other than heroin or crack cocaine, such as powder cocaine and so called legal highs?

See earlier answer regarding pre­ven­tion. Service needs should be delivered based on the harms exper­i­enced by each indi­vidual drug (although a full service for all drugs would be the ideal). This prin­ciple is even more important during a period of aus­terity. It would be dif­fi­cult to ask for a widening of remit whilst redu­cing avail­able resources. The ideal answer to this ques­tion is dif­ferent from the prag­matic one. Reduce the risk of harm from new psy­cho­active sub­stances, so called “legal highs”: by intro­du­cing a system of tem­porary bans while the health issues are con­sidered by inde­pendent experts.

Legal Highs Section on the Home Office Website

Action on stop­ping ‘legal highs’ coming on to the market is a pri­ority for the gov­ern­ment. The coali­tion agree­ment states, ‘We will intro­duce a system of tem­porary bans on new “legal highs” while health issues are con­sidered by inde­pendent experts. We will not per­man­ently ban a sub­stance without receiving full advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.’

‘Legal highs’ pose a sig­ni­ficant health risk, so banning is a public health measure. A ban sends a clear message to users of ‘legal highs’ (including young people who may be con­sid­ering trying them), and to those selling them. Young people in par­tic­ular may equate legal with safe and do not always under­stand that these drugs carry real risks.

Mephed­rone (often referred to as ‘meow meow’), an earlier legal high, was made a class B drug in April 2010, while Naphyrone (often sold as ‘NRG-​​1′) was made a class B drug on 23 July 2010. Both these drugs are now illegal to have, sell or give away.

  • What happened fol­lowing the mephed­rone ban (cata­lysed by the media’s undue hype)? Ivory Wave.

TalkToFrank Website

This is the only place with any spe­cifics about the banning process.

The Gov­ern­ment have announced that they will intro­duce a new system of one-​​year tem­porary bans on new ‘legal highs’ while the health issues can be con­sidered by an inde­pendent group of experts, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).  This new system is likely to be intro­duced in autumn 2011
  • The media keep saying “with imme­diate effect” — August 2011 is hardly immediate
  • The bans are in place for the maximum of a year, while proper clin­ical trials take several years — also, tri­al­ling a new poten­tially life-​​saving drug doesn’t bring up any­where near the amount of ethical issues as testing a recre­ational sub­stance under the assump­tion it’s prob­ably harmful

Interesting Bits & Pieces

The UK is of course not unique in having to con­front drug misuse. So, as we build upon this strategy, we are com­mitted to con­tinuing to review new evid­ence on what works in other coun­tries and what we can learn from it.
  • Lol.
The estim­ated £18 – 25 billion a year cost of alcohol misuse spans alcohol related dis­orders and dis­eases, crime, loss of pro­ductivity in the work­place and health and social prob­lems exper­i­enced by those who misuse alcohol and the impact this has on their fam­ilies. For the NHS alone, the estim­ated fin­an­cial burden of the harmful use of alcohol (reg­u­larly drinking at increasing or higher risk levels) is around £2.7 billion.
  • All of the sci­ences get £3 billion between them. Just sayin’.

It is estim­ated that 1.6 million people have mild, mod­erate or severe alcohol depend­ence. About a third of these will face some chal­lenges that are similar to those dependent on drugs in needing support to help them recover. It is spe­cialist alcohol treat­ment, for those in this group who would benefit from treat­ment, that this strategy aims to improve.

The illicit drug market in the UK is worth an estim­ated £4 – 6 billion per year.

Should we be making more of the poten­tial to use the benefit system to offer claimants a choice between;

  1. some form of fin­an­cial benefit sanc­tion, if they do not to take action to address their drug or alcohol depend­ency; or
  2. addi­tional support to take such steps, by tail­oring the require­ments placed upon them as a con­di­tion of benefit receipt to assist their recovery (for example tem­por­arily removing the need to seek employ­ment whilst under­going treatment).

Treat­ment should not be linked to fin­an­cial sanc­tions. In this scen­ario a few may benefit, however the majority may not as it does not take into account the genesis of the addiction.

Defining drug and alcohol depend­ency may cause some prob­lems – even though there are clear defin­i­tions there may still be dif­fering opinion. Sharing inform­a­tion also presents the ACMD with some concerns.

  • When we first read about this, Jo & I came to the same con­clu­sion imme­di­ately: the gov­ern­ment has no idea what addic­tion is or what it means to be addicted. Nice to know the experts agree — we can’t be going too far wrong!


Well, that’s the lot, but you might be inter­ested in my Top 10 Reasons Why Legal Highs Should Stay Legal.

Posted in Legislation | Tagged ACMD, addiction, alcohol, drug strategy, impact assessment, legal highs, temporary bans |