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Please note that the information on this page is based on the EMCDDA Annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Most statistical data relate to the year 2008 (or the last year available).


Annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
New drugs and emerging trends

Published: 10 November 2010

Follow-up on other substances

Piperazines: BZP and mCPP

It has become increasingly complicated to record and interpret seizure data on piperazines. This is due to the multiple mixtures of substances that may be found in powders and tablets (1), but also because piperazines are also combined with other drugs such as amphetamine and MDMA. In addition, forensic science laboratories do not always have the resources to identify all components of mixtures and in particular those that are not under control.

The availability of BZP appears to have decreased following the 2008 Council decision to submit it to control measures throughout the European Union (2). Some Member States, however, continue to report some large BZP seizures.

In 2009, mCPP still appeared to be the most widely available ‘new synthetic drug’ (3) on the European ecstasy market, either alone or in combination with MDMA. Information from the early-warning system, including reports from users in the Netherlands and seizures in Denmark and the United Kingdom, suggest that the proportion of ecstasy tablets containing mCPP (or piperazines in general) increased markedly in the first half of 2009, possibly exceeding ecstasy tablets containing MDMA. The Dutch Drug Information Monitoring System also reported that the number of samples submitted by users for analysis had doubled compared to previous years, probably due to increased concerns regarding the adverse effects of piperazines. The proportion of ecstasy tablets containing these substances may have fallen in the second half of 2009; though, in the United Kingdom, this may have been partly offset by an increased availability of cathinone derivatives.

These changes reflect an increasingly complex ecstasy market, which can be explained by fluctuations in the availability of the MDMA precursor chemical PMK.

GHB/GBL and ketamine

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) has been under international control since 2001, while ketamine, which is a medicinal product, may be controlled in Member States either under their legislation on drugs or on medicines. The use of gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), which is rapidly converted to GHB when ingested, has also recently raised concerns in Europe. GBL is considered a ‘non-scheduled drug precursor’ at EU level, and is included in the voluntary monitoring scheme for drug precursors. Some countries (Italy, Latvia, Austria, Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway) control it under their national drug legislation.

The prevalence of GHB and ketamine use in the general population is low, but it can be much higher in specific groups, settings and geographical areas. The Mixmag online survey targeting club-goers in the United Kingdom found last month prevalence of use of 1.7 % for GHB and 1.6 % for GBL, but 32.4 % for ketamine. A survey among club-goers in Amsterdam conducted in 2003 and 2008 (646 respondents) reported a slight increase in last month prevalence of GHB use from 4.2 % to 4.7 %. In the Czech Republic, a 2008 survey among 363 club-goers found last month prevalence of use at 0.3 % for GHB and 0.6 % for ketamine. In London, a survey among 173 clubbers requesting medical assistance at a club medical room found that as many as two-thirds requested it because of GHB/GBL use (Wood et al., 2009). A survey regularly carried out among 15- to 16-year-old school students in Frankfurt found that the numbers offered GHB had increased from 1 % in 2002 to 5 % in 2008.

The EMCDDA’s 2010 Internet snapshot found no online shops registered in the EU offering GHB, but GBL was found in four online shops. None of these, however, seemed to advertise GBL as a drug or implied that it could be used for its psychoactive properties.

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(1) For example: BZP (1-benzylpiperazine); CPP (chlorophenylpiperazine); TFMPP (1-(3-trifluoromethylphenyl)-piperazine) and DBZP (1,4-dibenzylpiperazine). CPP has three positional isomers, which are often difficult to distinguish, of which mCPP (1-(3-chlorophenyl)piperazine) is the most prevalent.

(2) Council Decision 2008/206/JHA of 3 March 2008 on defining 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP) as a new psychoactive substance which is to be made subject to control measures and criminal provisions (OJ L 63, 7.3.2008).

(3) mCPP is not controlled internationally, but a number of European countries have implemented measures to control it in the last few years (Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Turkey, Norway).

Bibliographic references

Wood, D.M., Nicolauo, M. and Dargan, P.I. (2009), ‘Epidemiology of recreational drug toxicity in a nightclub environment’, Substance Use & Misuse 44, pp. 1495–502.

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The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU’s decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 27 October 2010