Generic legislation of new psychoactive drugs

Jan van Amsterdam, David Nutt and Wim van den Brink
Journal of Psychopharmacology 27(3)
March 2013

New psychoactive drugs (NPDs, new psychoactive substances) enter the market all the time. However, it takes several months to ban these NPDs and immediate action is generally not possible. Several European countries and drug enforcement officers insist on a faster procedure to ban NPDs. Introduction of generic legislation, in which clusters of psychotropic drugs are banned in advance, has been mentioned as a possible solution. Here we discuss the pros and cons of such an approach.

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First, generic legislation could unintentionally increase the expenditures of enforcement, black market practices, administrative burden and health risks for users. Second, it may have a negative impact on research and the development of new treatments. Third, due to the complexity of generic legislation, problems in the enforcement are anticipated due to lack of knowledge about the chemical nomenclature.

Finally, various legal options are already available to ban the use, sale and trade of NPDs. We therefore conclude that the currently used scientific benefit–risk evaluation should be continued to limit the adverse health effects of NPDs. Only in emergency cases, where fatal incidents (may) occur, should this approach be overruled.