Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala government has issued orders permitting the Government Mental Health Centre in Thiruvanantha-puram for initiating a multi-centre collaborative research with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for detecting “new psychoactive substances (NPS) abuse treatment seekers” in the country.
The National Drug Treatment Centre, AIIMS, is the nodal agency as it coordinates with other detection centres in the country.
New psychoactive substances virtually tease the wits out of official agencies as they manifest in different permutations and combinations, leaving the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, archaic. These substances are often referred to as designer drugs, legal highs, herbal highs and bath salts.
However, it is illegal under current legislation to sell, supply or advertise them for “human consumption”. To get round this, sellers refer to them as research chemicals, plant food, bath crystals or pond cleaner.
Insidious are the ways in which the stuff reaches peddlers and users. Sleuths often fail to sniff out the evil ‘avatars’ and even if they smell a rat, they cannot launch prosecution proceedings because the NDPS list is silent on them.
“We have decided to focus on detecting the new psychoactive substances by interacting with treatment centres where patients report with dependency symptoms,” Dr Rakesh Lal, who heads the AIIMS National Drug Treatment Centre, told DC. “Clinicians and other trained personnel would pass on information of those reporting with varying symptoms, which they may attribute to hitherto unidentified drugs. Analysing blood and other samples from patients would help identify the new drugs.”
“The fact is that the drug is illicit but not illegal because it is not specifically mentioned in the NDPS list,” said Dr Lal.
The Act defines narcotic drugs-all substances under the 1961 Convention & Psychotropic Substances- under the 1971 Convention.
Profiles of NPS users suggest that adolescents more likely to use, males more than females, often in a party setting. They induce psychoactive effects, are readily available online, come with highly attractive packaging, perceived as safe drugs, not easily detected in urine samples and they are (as yet) not illegal (because not NDPS-listed).
People high on these drugs can get very agitated and violent, exhibit psychosis, and severe behaviour changes…some have been admitted to psychiatric hospitals and have experienced continued neurological and psychological effects.
Despite widespread Internet availability and use among certain populations, health care providers remain largely unfamiliar with these compounds. Research is needed to better understand the side effects and long-term consequences associated with the use of these synthetic compounds.
More toxicological identification of these new drugs and more information on the sources of them, as well as their distribution and patterns of use are needed to curtail future increases in use.
Healthcare providers change approach: What is more stigmatizing, be branded an addict or a drug-dependant? The substance abuser would anyway resent being branded either, but caregivers would prefer their wards being referred to as drug-dependant; it is very difficult to shake off decades of stigma associated with an addict.
That aside, the police and excise officials see increasing evidence of crimes being committed under the influence of substance. Often, the offender when caught doesn’t smell or look tipsy. But something lurks. Law enforcers are clueless because the toxic stuff has been unheard of.
The medical fraternity engaged in treating lives deranged by the use of habit-forming and slow-killing substances is equally challenging as the list of new addictive substances is mind-boggling.
Broad categories of NPS: Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices. These products are also known as herbal or liquid incense
Synthetic cathinones: More commonly known as “bath salts,” they are human-made stimulants chemically related to cathinone, a substance found in the khat plant. Khat is a shrub grown in East Africa and southern Arabia, where some people chew its leaves for their mild stimulant effects. Human-made versions of cathinone can be much stronger than the natural product and, in some cases, very dangerous
Ketamine: It is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anaesthesia. It induces a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation and memory loss. Other uses include for chronic pain, sedation in intensive care and depression
Phencyclidine (PCP): A mind-altering drug that may lead to hallucinations (a profound distortion in a person’s perception of reality). It is considered a dissociative drug, leading to a distortion of sights, colours, sounds, self, and one’s environment-type substances,
Phenethylamines: Refer to a class of substances with documented psychoactive and stimulant effects and include amphetamine, methamphetamine and MDMA (Ecstasy), all of which are controlled under the 1971 Convention.
Piperazines: They are a broad class of chemical compounds which mimic the effects of Ecstasy. They were produced as a legal alternative to Ecstasy (though have since been classified as Class C drugs) and have been found as a cutting agent in some Ecstasy pills.
2-Aminoindane: It is a research chemical and drug with applications in neurologic disorders and psychotherapy. It is also a drug of abuse as a component of some bath salts, with potential for neurotoxicity and brain damage.
Tryptamine: Found in trace amounts in the brains of mammals and is hypothesized to play a role as a neuromodulator or neurotransmitter.