University of Dundee to fight epidemic of addictive drugs

A research base has been established at a Scottish university to tackle the emerging epidemic of highly addictive new drugs.
Epidemic of addictive cannabinoid Spice, sweeping the US.Epidemic of addictive cannabinoid Spice, sweeping the US.
Epidemic of addictive cannabinoid Spice, sweeping the US.

The Centre for Excellence in New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) has been created at the University of Dundee with the aim of tackling specific drug threats as part of wider initiative with the Scottish Police Authority Forensic Services and the Scottish Government.

Among the 600 different NPS recorded in Europe since 2008 are ‘Spice’ - a constantly changing material containing a variety of synthetic cannabinoids and Fentanyls - a group of potent opioids used as painkillers and linked to the death of pop legend Prince last year.

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The centre will also involve input from Police Scotland, NHS Scotland, first responders and voluntary organisations creating a national consortium to work together to address the NPS challenges Scotland faces.

The Centre for Excellence in NPS Research at Dundee is a collaboration between leading scientists from across the University, led by Professor Niamh NicDaeid and Dr Craig McKenzie of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification in the School of Science and Engineering.

Professor NicDaeid said, “The university is uniquely well placed to offer the expertise to help tackle the serious societal issue of new and emerging drugs, working in partnership with our frontline forensic science colleagues.

“NPS are often referred to incorrectly as ‘legal highs’ – many of these drugs have actually been controlled under UK drugs legislation. However, there are constantly emerging new drugs, many of them highly addictive and causing significant problems not just in the UK but around the world. We need to do more to understand the nature of these drugs, identify the threats posed by new drugs, and work across services to tackle the challenges they present.”

In May 2016, the supply and production of NPS not already covered by legislation became illegal in the UK under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

Dr McKenzie said, “The issues of NPS and other emerging drug threats are complex but it is clear many of these drugs can be extremely addictive and harmful. Our centre will support meaningful, targeted research to increase our understanding of such substances, help to reduce harm and support frontline services.”

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