Could mild herbal stimulants such as the coca leaf, khat, kratom or ephedra offer alternatives to the more concentrated substances that now dominate the market? Could the recreational stimulants market be steered towards a less harmful direction over time through differentiating the control mechanisms between plants and synthesized derivatives? Different legal regimes are currently implemented between countries and vary greatly for the different plants, some of which are erroneously classified as new psychoactive substances (NPS).

  • 'Legal highs'

    The challenge of new psychoactive substances
    Adam Winstock and Chris Wilkins
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 16
    October 2011

    This paper aims to set out some of the policy and public health issues raised by the appearance of a wide range of emergent psychoactive substances of diverse origin, effect and risk profile (commonly referred to as ‘legal highs’). It will start by considering what is meant by the term ‘legal highs’ and consider the historical context that has framed their appearance and must inform any response. It will then consider some of the approaches that have been adopted by different nations to control their availability and associated harms, including a preliminary assessment of their consequences, both intended and not.

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  • Amphetamine Type Stimulants and Harm Reduction

    Experiences from Myanmar, Thailand and Southern China
    Tom Blickman
    TNI Drug Policy Briefing Nr. 37
    October 2011

    Little is known about the methamphetamine market in the region, but there are strong indications that the situation is deteriorating with substances becoming stronger, methods of use more harmful and the number of users steadily increasing. There is an urgent need for donors and governments to introduce effective harm reduction measures.

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  • Khat use in Europe

    Implications for European policy
    Drugs in Focus Nr. 21
    Briefing of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)
    July 2011

    Khat leaves are cultivated in the highlands of the Horn of Africa, Southern Arabia and along the East African coast. In many countries, chewing khat is an age-old tradition. More recently, the mass migration of people from the Horn of Africa has been associated with the spread of khat usage to neighbouring countries, Europe and the rest of the world. Exact numbers of regular khat users on a worldwide scale do not exist, however estimates range up to 20 million. This paper presents the challenges associated with the spread of khat consumption.

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  • Taking Drugs Seriously

    A Demos and UK Drug Policy Commission report on legal highs
    Jonathan Birdwell, Jake Chapman & Nicola Singleton
    May 2011

    Since first coming to public prominence at the end of 2009, legal highs have posed a major challenge to existing legal and legislative structures designed to deal with drugs. With the market in manufactured psychoactive substances like mephedrone moving faster than public policy can accommodate, this report asks whether the assumptions enshrined in the 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) are still valid when applied 21st century drugs market.

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  • Options for regulating new psychoactive drugs

    A review of recent experiences
    Peter Reuter
    UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC)
    May 2011

    This paper is intended to provide the basis for a discussion of policy options in dealing with new psychoactive substances that show signs of popularity and of harmfulness within a wider project being undertaken by the UK Drug Policy Commission and Demos, the outcomes of which are presented in Taking Drugs Seriously: a Demos and UK Drug Policy Commission report on legal highs (Birdwell et al., 2011).

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  • Kratom in Thailand

    Decriminalisation and Community Control?
    Pascal Tanguay
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 13
    April 2011

    In early 2010, the Thai Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) developed a policy proposal to review different aspects of the criminal justice process in relation to drug cases. The possibility of decriminalising the indigenous psychoactive plant, kratom, was included in the ONCB’s proposal for consideration by the Ministry of Justice.  This briefing paper provides an overview of issues related to kratom legislation and policy in Thailand as well as a set of conclusions and recommendations to contribute to a reassessment of the current ban on kratom in Thailand and the region.


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  • Lifting the ban on coca chewing

    Bolivia’s proposal to amend the 1961 Single Convention
    Martin Jelsma
    Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 11
    March 2011

    January 31 marked the close of the 18-month period during which countries could submit objections to Bolivia’s proposal to remove from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs the obligation to abolish the practice of coca chewing.

    A total of eighteen countries formally notified the UN Secretary General that they could not accept the proposed amendment: the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Russian Federation, Japan, Singapore, Slovakia, Estonia, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico and Ukraine.

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  • East African discourses on khat and sex

    Susan Beckerleg
    Journal of Ethnopharmacology 132 (2010) 600–606
    September 2010

    The study aims to review and analyse the varied East African discourses on the effects of khat use on libido, fertility, transmission of HIV, prostitution and rape. Khat is associated, by consumers and its detractors alike, with changes in libido and sexual performance. Although there is no evidence to support their claims, detractors of khat use argue that khat causes sexual violence, causes women to enter sex work, and that chewing causes the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including the HIV virus.

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  • A good chew or good riddance

    How to move forward in the regulation of khat
    Axel Klein Pien Metaal
    Journal of Ethnopharmacology 132 (2010) 584–589
    July 2010

    The article reviews the status of khat, the most recent plant based psychoactive substance to reach a global market, and considers policy making processes in general and the framework of drug control in particular. The risk assessment and classification of psychoactive drugs is a contested arena where political, economic and moral agendas collide, leaving countries that have banned khat, with significant social costs. To best manage the risks arising from the increasing availability of khat it is therefore suggested to draft a regulatory framework with clear objectives and guiding principles.

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  • Khat use and monitoring drug use in Europe

    The current situation and issues for the future
    Paul Griffiths, Dominique Lopez, Roumen Sedefov, Ana Gallegos, Brendan Hughes, André Noor, Luis Royuela
    Journal of Ethnopharmacology 132 (2010) 578–583
    May 2010

    The aim of the study was to review the information available on the use of khat (Catha edulis) in the EU, and to assess the future use of this drug and related substances. Khat use sits awkwardly within the current EU reporting framework, and this hampers the production of a European-level analysis of the use of this drug. Why this is so, and what information is available at the European level, are the topics addressed in this paper. The analysis is extended to consider if the current evidence suggests that this drug, or synthetic variations of the psychoactive compounds it contains, are likely to play a greater role in the European drug scene of the future.

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