EU scientists fight against growing drug market with ‘encyclopedia’ of legal highs


EU scientists are working to analyse and identify synthetic drugs, in a fight against a rapidly-growing market.

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are designed to mimic the effects of illegal narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine or heroin, and can be extremely harmful.

Despite this, the synthetic drugs are often not illegal, earning the name ‘legal highs’, and can be cheaply purchased online.

In November 2018, the EU introduced legislation that identified NPS as “drugs”, but that has not stopped the constant flow investigated by customs officers.

At the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, scientists are working to compile an NPS “encyclopedia”, that will help EU member states to fight against this new, dynamic drug market.

More than 750 synthetic drugs have already been registered, but new substances are constantly emerging.

Claude Guillou, head of the JRC narcotics laboratory, said that the drug market is currently facing a

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