The challenge posed to established drug control measures by new psychoactive substances, so-called ‘legal highs’, that are emerging with increasing rapidity and being distributed through new channels, such as the internet, has become the focus of increasing attention in the United Kingdom. In response to this increasing concern, in late 2011, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs produced a report examining these novel substances. One of its recommendations was that the government should “explore the possibility of new legislation similar to the Analogue Act (1986) used in the USA and similar laws in other countries, in conjunction with generic definitions of chemical scope” (Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, 2011, p44).
Superficially the proposal seems attractive, especially for politicians who have come under intense media and public pressure to do something to prevent such substances becoming widely available. However, the experience of drug controls in general and analogue controls in particular raise serious doubts about the efficacy of adopting analogue controls in the UK as suggested by ACMD.
In this joint Briefing Note, Dr Les King, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs and the UK Drug Policy Commission set out some of the drawbacks with analogue control systems.