Patterns of use of new synthetic drugs in a sample of research chemical users in Spain

Magí Farré

M. Farré1, D. González1, M. Ventura2, F. Caudevilla3, M. Torrens4. 1Hospital del Mar Research Institute, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain; 2Energy Control, Spain; 3Puerta Bonita Health Center, Spain; 4Hospital del Mar, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain

Background: There is a broad category of unregulated psychoactive compounds or products usually sold via the Internet or in smart shops or head shops. The online vending of new psychoactive substances appears to be expanding. Most of these substances are sold as “research chemicals,” “legal alternatives to well-known controlled substances,” or “legal highs.” They include a wide range of synthetic and plant-derived substances and products, including “herbal highs,” “party pills,” and “research chemicals,” many of which may be specifically designed to circumvent existing drug controls. There is a lack of scientific information on their pharmacological and toxicological properties. Our aim was to study the patterns of use of the new synthetic drugs in consumers.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional, structured survey that was included in specific drug forums on the Internet. A total of 228 Spanish users completed the survey.

Results: The most lifetime-consumed substances were 2-CB (79.8%), 2-CI (39.5%), methylone (40.8%), and mephedrone (35.5%). These were frequently combined with cannabis (70.2%) and ethanol (66.2%). The combination of 2-CB and MDMA (Ecstasy) had been used by 26.6% of the sample. Most subjects obtained the drugs from friends (79.4%) and the Internet (41.7.%). They usually searched for information on drug web pages (88.6%), commonly analyzed the material in harm reduction nongovernmental organizations, and used precision scales to dose.

Conclusions: Research chemical users are polydrug users with some differential characteristics from other populations of drug users.

Financial support: Funded by grants from Plan Nacional sobre Drogas (PNSD 2009I047) and Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria-ISCIII-FEDER (RTA RD06/0001/1009 and FIS PI11/01961).

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