New re­search base to fight ad­dic­tive drugs epi­demic

● Uni­ver­sity of Dundee cho­sen to tackle drug threats

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By KEVAN CHRISTIE Health Cor­re­spon­dent

A re­search base has been es­tab­lished at a Scot­tish uni­ver­sity to tackle the emerg­ing epi­demic of highly ad­dic­tive new drugs.

The cen­tre for ex­cel­lence in new psy­choac­tive sub­stances (NPS) has been cre­ated at the Uni­ver­sity of Dundee with the aim of tack­ling spe­cific drug threats as part of wider ini­tia­tive with the Scot­tish Po­lice Author­ity Foren­sic Ser­vices andthe Scot­tish­gov­ern­ment.

Among the 600 dif­fer­ent NPS recorded in Europe since 2008 are “Spice” – a con­stantly chang­ing ma­te­rial con­tain­ing a va­ri­ety of syn­thetic cannabi­noids – and Fen­tanyls – a group of po­tent opi­oids used as painkillers and linked to the death of pop leg­end Prince last year.

The cen­tre will also in­volve in­put from Po­lice Scot­land, NHS Scot­land, first re­spon­ders and vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions cre­at­ing a na­tional con­sor­tium to work to­gether to ad­dress the NPS chal­lenges Scot­land faces.

The cen­tre for ex­cel­lence at Dundee is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween lead­ing sci­en­tists from across the uni­ver­sity, led by Pro­fes­sor Ni­amh Nic- Daeid and Dr Craig Mcken­zie of the cen­tre for anatomy and hu­man iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in the school of sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing.

Pro­fes­sor Nic­daeid said, “The uni­ver­sity is uniquely well placed to of­fer the ex­per­tise to help tackle the se­ri­ous so­ci­etal is­sue of new and emerg­ing drugs, work­ing in part­ner­ship with our front­line foren­sic sci­ence col­leagues.

“NPS are often re­ferred to in­cor­rectly as ‘le­gal highs’ – many of these drugs have actually been con­trolled un­der UK drugs leg­is­la­tion. How­ever, there are con­stantly emerg­ing new drugs, many of them highly ad­dic­tive and caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems not just in the UK but around the world. We need to do more to un­der­stand the na­ture of these drugs, iden­tify the threats they pose, and work across ser­vices to tackle the chal­lenges they present.”

In May 2016, the sup­ply and pro­duc­tion of NPS not al­ready cov­ered by leg­is­la­tion be­came il­le­gal in the UK un­der the Psy­choac­tive Sub­stances Act 2016.

Dr Mcken­zie said, “The is­sues of NPS and other emerg­ing drug threats are com­plex but it is clear many of these drugs can be ex­tremely ad­dic­tive and harm­ful.

“Our cen­tre will sup­port mean­ing­ful, tar­geted re­search to in­crease our un­der­stand­ing of such sub­stances, help to re­duce harm and sup­port front­line ser­vices.”

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