It certainly appears that the ACMD's terms of reference below have been overlooked in the hasty manner in which mephedrone's prohibition has come about.
The terms of reference of the Advisory Council are set out in section 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971(the Act) and are as follows:
It shall be the duty of the Advisory Council to keep under review the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to drugs which are being or appear to them likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears to them capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem, and to give to any one or more of the Ministers, where either Council consider it expedient to do so or they are consulted by the Minister or Ministers in question, advice on measures (whether or not involving alteration of the law) which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken for preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with social problems connected with their misuse, and in particular on measures which in the opinion of the Council, ought to be taken.
It is quite clear that the "misuse" (definition: noun: wrong or improper use; misapplication.) of mephedrone is promoted by both it's current legal status and its soon-to-be prohibited status. The ACMD set out quite clearly in their report (though whose report is it really if the members of the committee didn't see the final draft?) that mephedrone is manufactured purely for human consumption as a stimulating intoxicant. Using mephedrone as plant food or as bath salts is clearly to "misuse" mephedrone. Of greater concern of course is the fact that no advice can currently be given by vendors on the drug's safe consumption. It is clear therefore that current regulations prohibiting its sale for human consumption promote its continued misuse.
Consider now the situation after the drug's prohibition. Optimal use of mephedrone could surely be best described as the use of mephedrone which gives the user the most pleasurable experience with the minimum of unwanted side effects. Passing the manufacture, distribution and sale of mephedrone into the hands of criminals will lead to inconsistent purity and a lack of standardised, good-quality advice on safe consumption and optimal recovery. Surely it is clear then that prohibition promotes continued misuse of mephedrone?
What measures could reduce the "misuse" of mephedrone? Sale from licensed pharmacists with age restrictions; full education on health, social, and economic consequences of use before users are licensed to purchase the drug; and education programmes which encourage abstinence but yet at all times try to ensure young people are as safe as they can be no matter what choice they make.
That is the recommendation which would best satisfy the ACMD's terms of reference. If the terms of reference had been rewritten as "to quickly suggest incorporation of any emerging psychoactive drug into the existing classification scheme alongside drugs of similar effect" then the ACMD would have done well this week. This has not happened and the ACMD has failed miserably.
Not only has it failed on the action to be taken on mephedrone, but it has also identified the next potential legal drug of abuse in naphyrone or "NRG-1" as it is more commonly known. They may as well have distributed a press release stating:
"NRG-1 has potential to be the next big thing in legal highs. We know very little about it so it will remain legal for the time being. Anyone wishing to make a lot of money fast would be wise to buy lots of NRG-1 and sell it on for considerable profit."
It is utterly irresponsible to identify this drug in their report before they have detailed an appropriate response to the conveyor belt of legal highs that are passing into commmon usage in the UK. I can only hope that a "Class D" recommendation happens before we have a massively damaging public health emergency on our hands.
For more on Class D:
“What are the alternatives? One approach would be a new class in the Misuse of Drugs Act – the class D model, adopted in New Zealand to deal with BZP. This is a holding category where drugs can be put before they are well understood: sales are limited to over-18s; the product is quality-controlled so users know what they are getting, at doses limited as far as possible to safe levels; and it comes with health education messages. Society can limit sales and collect data on use.
Manufacturers and shops that disobey these regulations are punished, and the young are protected, but not criminalised. Last summer the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, when under my chairmanship, suggested this approach in response to the growing use of spice and BZP. It was rejected, they were both made class C, and possibly as a consequence young people began to turn to mephedrone.”
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