On the 29 June, the European People’s Party organised a meeting in the European Parliament to discuss new psychoactive substances.
Chaired by MEP Boguslaw Sonik (Poland) and MEP Oana Elena Antonescu (Romania), the hearing aimed to discuss the scale of the phenomenon of psychoactive substances which have become a legal alternative to illicit drugs.
Psychoactive substances are a growing concern across the European Union, notably that new synthetic or herbal drugs are marketed as legal alternatives to illicit drugs, which can be sold on the internet and in various specialised shops due to unclear regulatory framework.
The meeting comprised two panels focusing on the “legal highs” challenge – facts and figures, and the responses to the “legal highs” phenomenon at national and EU level.
Together with the rising popularity of these drugs, worrying information regarding the health risks of the new psychoactive drugs began to appear. Some of these substances may pose health and social risks to individuals and broader society. These may be of psychological and physical nature and risky or even violent behaviour may occur. Unfortunately, still very little is known about the drugs in terms of their toxicity, appeal to users and long term effects.
For the policy-makers, the substances pose a yet another problem related to the fact that they are designed to circumvent existing drug control legislation, while imitating the effect of illigal drugs like marihuana, cocaine or heroine. When one of them is banned, producers quickly come with an alternative; and they may be moved freely in the internal and digital market. There is a lack of comprehensive and unified framework to deal with these synthetic substances; some Member States apply legal regulations like for pharmaceutical products, some countries see them as the equivalent of drugs, and others focus on new rules on the protection of public health and consumer safety.
Under the auspices of the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the issue of new psychoactive sunstances will be dealt with. In addition to that, the European Commission will prepare a proposal for a comprehensive approach towards finding solutions to that problem.
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