In recent years, a series of products have emerged that simulate the effects of prohibited drugs like marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA), opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine. Often called “legal highs” or “research chemicals”, these new psychoactive substances are largely unregulated and may cause more harm than the substances they are designed to mimic. While states and Congress have rushed to prohibit these substances, manufacturers have simply invented new variations to skirt the bans.
What do we actually know about these “new” and “emerging” drugs? When it comes to these substances – some of which have been around for many years – how do we separate the science from the media panic? What options are available to policymakers looking to act in the best interests of public safety and health? And what lessons have we learned from regulating other substances such as alcohol and tobacco?
On July 29, 2015, the Drug Policy Alliance hosted a teleconference to discuss what people should know about these "new drugs."