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New and emerging drugs

This section provides information and FREE downloadable factsheets, written primarily for drug workers and other health professionals, on new and emerging drugs and legal highs, You can access the information and factsheets using the links on the left.

The history of designer drugs could go back as far as the 19th century, when German chemists began investigating the molecular structure of organic substances like ephedra and coca. Once they understood the make-up of these substances they were able to replicate, or synthesise, them in the laboratory. From ephedra came ephedrine, and then its synthetic relative, amphetamine.

Since that time, scientists have been able to synthesise hundreds of psychoactive compounds. Alexander Shulgin, in his book PIHKAL, identified 179 members of the phenethylamine family, which includes MDMA or ecstasy.

In recent months the (previously legal) drug mephedrone has received unprecedented media attention, leading to it being made illegal by the government. But mephedrone is really only the tip of the iceberg. There are potentially hundreds of chemical analogues waiting to be synthesised by creative chemists around the world.

The factsheets provide information on some of the substances out there. Of course, for most users of unlicensed drugs, there is no guarantee that what they are being sold is actually what they think they are buying. A gram of powder in a small plastic bag could be anything – and probably is!

We have described here some substances that have been banned in recent years but remain popular on the British drug scene. We have also included some, currently legal, substances that might take off in the coming months. We will include new factsheets as new substances emerge.
The information gathered  here is taken from a number of sources including wikipedia, the vaults of Erowid and the psychonaut web mapping project.

Factsheets written by Alan Mathews



Picture of Festival Highs - Substance misuse information for festival-goers
Important new pyschoactive substance NPS (legal highs) advice & health and harm minimisation information for anyone attending summer music festivals.
Picture of DRUGS - Staying Safe - Advice & information for young people
This substance misuse booklet for young people provides clear, non-judgemental information about some of the most commonly used legal and illegal substances.