Four new synthetic drugs were singled out by the Council of the EU for risk assessment this week under the 1997 Joint action on new synthetic drugs. The decision follows consideration by the Councilís Horizontal working party on drugs (HWPD), on 12 December, of an EMCDDAñ Europol report providing the state of knowledge on these substances.
The four substances are:
Three of the drugs belong to the so-called '2C' family and are from the phenethylamine chemical group. All provoke hallucinogenic and other effects such as mood-lifting, sense of well-being and powerful visual alterations. The substances tend to be taken in doses ranging from 10ñ35 mg, thus being stronger than ecstasy (MDMA) which is typically taken in 80 mg doses.
Health risks posed by the 2C drugs partly derive from their dose-sensitivity. The delayed action of 2C-I for example (onset of effects in 90 minutes) could potentially lead users to take too much of the drug if they become impatient and ëtop upí their dose before effects hit. Sniffing 2C-T-2 and 2C-T-7 in powder form increases the risks of severe and even lethal overdoses.
TMA-2 is from the trimethoxy amphetamine group. It too has potent hallucinogenic effects and is around 10 times stronger than mescaline. Health risks derive from the thin line between the dose needed to produce psychoactive effects and a toxic dose.
Among the side effects of the four drugs are: nausea, vomiting, delirium, dissociation, loss of memory, panic attacks and a strong depression of the central nervous system, which could provoke convulsions, suffocation or lead to physical injury.
Although no fatalities related to these drugs have been recorded so far in the EU, seizures of all four have been reported recently in a number of Member States, leading some countries to already place them under control (see annex). Deaths related to 2C-T-7 have been recorded in the US, where it is now controlled.
The EMCDDA will now prepare for a formal risk assessment of the health and social risks of these substances, as well as the possible consequences of prohibition. Final risk-assessment conclusions will be forwarded to the European Commission and the Council in the course of 2003, based on scientific evidence.
Previous risk-assessments by the EMCDDA and its partners have been undertaken for: MBDB, 4-MTA, GHB, ketamine and PMMA. Final decisions were taken to control some of the substances (4-MTA and PMMA) and monitor others (MBDB, GHB and ketamine).