Designer drugs develop faster than designer legislation

Paul Raven @ 06-11-2009

pillsI’m not sure whether I’m supposed to be proud or ashamed of this one, but apparently Britain has been declared the “designer drugs capital of Europe” by the EU drug agency. [image by Greencolander]

This new generation of online “head shops” is at the centre of a rapidly growing market in highly potent synthetic drugs, such as Spice, that mimic the effects of illegal substances such as cannabis and ecstasy.

European drug agency officials are also alarmed by the way the online retailers are reacting to moves to ban individual “legal highs” by rapidly marketing alternatives. Officials say it is like trying to hit a moving target.

Well, d’uh – do you really expect them to just sit there in the firing line waiting to be picked off? I think what we’re seeing here is something like a singularity for the recreational chemicals industry, whereby the legal machinery of the countries that most want to control such substances moves too slowly to control the exponentially faster response to market demand. It’s a whack-a-mole gig – knock one substance into the ground, and two more pop up to replace it.

I’d hardly be the first to suggest that perhaps this rapid response in the balance of supply and demand is the first nail in the coffin lid of attempts to banish recreational drug-taking, but given the UK government’s laughable unwillingness to heed the suggestions of the drug policy advisors that it appointed, I’m not going to be the first voice they ignore, either.

But I think it’s safe to say that drugs – designer or otherwise – are not going to go away any time soon, legislation or otherwise. So what’s a beleaguered incumbent government to do – quietly admit defeat and lose the vote of the hand-wringing middle classes, or pour away time and resources doing a King Canute impersonation?

Is there anyone among Futurismic‘s readership who can say with a straight face that more restrictive legislation will prevent drug abuse, in the UK or anywhere else? If so, tell us how and why in the comments. Feel free to suggest new alternatives to legislation, as well.