Controlling new drugs under marketing regulations

Brendan Hughes*, Adam Winstock

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

    62 Citations (Scopus)


    The rapid emergence of myriad substances openly marketed as legal highs is straining traditional drug control systems which require time and basic scientific data on harms to react, presenting governments with the dilemma of no response or a disproportionate response. Some countries have side-stepped this using novel policy and legislative approaches. Should other countries consider them? 

    We review the different laws invoked to stop the open sale of new psychoactive substances, focusing on the European Union (EU). 

    Some countries have designed new catch-all control systems, or faster systems to classify substances as drugs. Others have enforced consumer safety or medicines legislation to stop the open sale of these products. The latter originate from harmonization of the internal market of the EU. Rigorous, objective evaluation is required, but first results suggest that these have been effective, while avoiding criminalization of users. 

    Every EU country should have existing laws for protecting public health that can be applied swiftly yet proportionately to new drugs appearing on the open market with minimum political involvement. It seems the key is the speed, not the weight, of response. Given support for their enforcement mechanisms, these systems might be as effective and more efficient than the old ones.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1894-1899
    Number of pages6
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


    • Drug control
    • legal highs
    • policy


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