Responding to today’s announcement that GBL, ‘Spice; and BZP will be made illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Martin Barnes, chief executive of the drug information charity DrugScope said:
“DrugScope supports the Government’s decision to follow the advice of the ACMD and make GBL and BZP Class C substances. While we also support the government’s intention to make Spice a controlled drug, there is a question mark over the announcement that it will be made a Class B, not a Class C drug. The ACMD’s review of Spice concluded that it is potentially as harmful as cannabis but the government previously rejected the council’s advice that cannabis should remain a Class C substance.
“A review of the Misuse of Drugs Act was promised by the Government in January 2006, but was subsequently dropped. Given the number of substances being made illegal under the Act with the likely prospect of more to come, and in light of recent decisions by the Government not to follow the ACMD’s advice on the classification of cannabis and ecstasy, it is even more important that the classification system is reviewed.
“In recent months some DrugScope members working in drug treatment services have reported an increase in the number of people experiencing problems with GBL. The drug is unpredictable, is linked to fatalities and there is evidence of people becoming dependent on it after prolonged use. It is important that treatment services are geared to identifying and supporting people with GBL related problems.
“Spice, while chemically different from cannabis, closely mimics the psychoactive effect of cannabis. The ACMD’s decision to recommend that the substances in Spice be banned was unusual in that it was based on evidence and concern about potential rather than actual proven harms.
“While we support the classification of substances such as GBL and BZP, the law alone is a blunt instrument. The forthcoming FRANK campaign will help make information about these substances more widely available. But we have concerns that in lumping all these substances together as ‘legal highs’, the significant differences in the effects and potential harms might be hard for young people to identify. It is important that public information and education campaigns are comprehensive and ongoing.”