The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

Synthetic drugs: government looking to close legal loopholes

Sunday, 3 September 2017, 10:15 Last update: about 5 years ago

The Home Affairs and Health Ministries are currently discussing introducing the concept of making whole classes of compounds illegal unless specific products are deemed legal.

This, the Health Ministry has informed The Malta Independent on Sunday, will allow the authorities to clamp down on new, dangerous synthetic drugs as soon as they appear on the local scene.

As matters stand, Malta's law enforcement authorities are often hampered when it comes to dealing with the blight of synthetic drugs by the fact that, as soon as a particular drug is legislated against, a new, slightly modified, version appears which, technically, is not illegal. This problem could be resolved, according to the Health Ministry, by making whole classes of compounds illegal.

The Ministry acknowledges that, together with many other countries in Europe and beyond, the prevalence of illegally manufactured and illegally imported synthetic drugs has been noted in Malta, and it stresses that the use of such drugs can result in serious health problems.

Kidney failure, cardiac problems and hallucinations are some of the effects experienced by the users of so-called 'legal highs' in Malta.

These legal highs have caused a shift in Europe's drug market, with hundreds of new versions being discovered every year. Because of the way in which the drugs are promoted, young people and adults alike are probably unaware of how extensive the effects on the body can be.

Containing chemical substances that produce similar effects to illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis or ecstasy, legal highs can be separated into two main groups: synthetic cannabis and bath salts. The former is designed to act in the same way as cannabis, going through the same parts of the brain that would be affected by cannabis smoking. The latter are stimulants which mimic drugs such as cocaine.

The major effects of legal highs can be categorised into three categories - stimulants, sedatives and psychedelics. Stimulants act like speed, cocaine or ecstasy, making one feel energised and euphoric, while increasing the risk of paranoia, anxiety and panic.

Sedatives make one feel euphoric, relaxed or sleepy. They reduce inhibitions and concentration, making one physically unsteady. Sedatives can be dangerous, particularly when mixed with alcohol and other drugs, and can cause a loss of consciousness.

Psychedelic legal highs act like LSD and magic mushrooms, inducing a feeling of warmth and enlightenment. They make one feel detached from the world. These drugs cause strong hallucinatory reactions and their effects make one behave erratically and put oneself at risk.

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