Synthetic the new drug of choice

Products like Amsterdam High are among the brands of synthetic cannabis to be pulled from retailers' shelves.
Products like Amsterdam High are among the brands of synthetic cannabis to be pulled from retailers' shelves. Chris Ison

AN INCREASING number of people are swapping hard drugs for the synthetic unknown and leaving themselves at the mercy of unidentified substances.

A National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report released on Tuesday found while well-established party drugs like ecstasy were re-emerging in Australia, just under half of study participants were opting for synthetic drugs.

Close to 90% of the 600 people sampled over six months in the research described ecstasy as easy or very easy to get a hold of.

The proportion who found the drug difficult to get hold of halved compared with 2011.

But drug trends chief investigator and NDARC senior lecturer Dr Lucy Burns referred to the emergence of synthetic drugs as a worrying trend.

"The number and range of synthetic drugs which are being accessed by regular ecstasy users is cause for concern," says Dr Burns.

"What is concerning about synthetic drugs is that there is great variability in the content of these substances, and often, very little is known about what they actually contain.

"This poses unknown risks for consumers particularly as the vast majority of ecstasy users are polydrug users and are taking more than one drug at a time."

NDARC found 40% of the sample using emerging psychoactive drugs including synthetic cannabis, sometimes dubbed Kronic.

Methamphetamine use decreased considerably among Queensland users with only 53 of participants having used the drug in the last six months.

In 2003, 89 respondents used methamphetamine in the same time period.

Methamphetamine in a crystallised form - otherwise known as ice - has increased in use across Australia since last year with 54 of drug users having injected the drug in 2012, nine more than the previous year.

Topics:  crime drugs methamphetamine synthetic drugs

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