Drug Science, Policy and Law (DSP) aims to be the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues.

A peer-reviewed journal of science, policy and law relating to drugs, it is international in scope and grounded in a rigorous evidence base making it essential reading for all those in the field and of interest to the general public due to the jargon-free, easy to read style.

The journal covers a wide range of drug-related issues from "legal highs" to international public policy to psychotherapy. The articles from the first issues are summarised and available for free download from the sidebar.

Ecstasy, legal highs and designer drug use: A Canadian perspective

Recreational drug use in Canada is not uncommon, but as with most societies, illegal drug use carries harsh penalties resulting in a criminal record when an individual is successfully prosecuted. Popular drugs of use in Canada include ecstasy, cannabis (including some synthetic cannabinoids sold as ‘Spice’ and ‘Incense’) and several emerging psychoactive ‘legal highs’. Surprisingly, Canada is a major manufacturer and exporter of the popular club drug ecstasy, with criminal gangs organising the synthesis and distribution of this club drug worldwide. Over the last 18 months, there has been much interest in and use of alternatives to ecstasy due to contamination of ecstasy during synthesis. One particular contaminant, paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA), has resulted in several deaths. Other alternatives include piperazines and mephedrone analogues. With regard to cannabis, some is home grown within people’s properties, but there is also large-scale cultivation in British Columbia where the climate is more temperate. With the introduction of corporate drug screening, there is increasing use of synthetic cannabinoids to avoid detection of marijuana use. This article discusses the problems and trends of synthetic drug use in Canada and reflects on the limited education available to youth in this regard.

Health-related and legal interventions: A comparison of allegedly delinquent and convicted opioid addicts in Austria

In Austria, judges can offer quasi-compulsory treatment options (in- and outpatient settings) as an alternative to imprisonment for drug-related delinquencies. A standard assessment of medical, psychological and legal data on the implementation of health-related and legal interventions in Austria was applied in 96 opioid-dependent individuals (10.4% female) undergoing quasi-compulsory treatment, receiving health-related measures. Health-related measures were offered significantly more often to individuals charged with solely narcotics possession and/or trade, whereas imprisonment was filed significantly more often when concomitant property or violent crimes were committed in addition to drug possession/dealing. Results confirm that imprisonment is sentenced to a vast extent for severe crimes, and health-related measure is well accepted among judges. However, based on patients’ high loading of previous convictions and alarmingly high burden of comorbidities, quality improvement and assurance in health-related measure are required when patients have their first contact with the criminal justice system. Continuous focus on applying diversion procedures is also required to reduce societal costs.

Khat (Catha edulis): A systematic review of evidence and literature pertaining to its harms to UK users and society

The use of khat (Catha edulis) has been associated with a large number of physiological and societal harms, leading to calls for it to be controlled in the UK. The evidence of these harms is often equivocal, limited by confounding factors, or entirely anecdotal: high-powered, quality-controlled studies are lacking. Regardless, the body of relevant literature indicates that the once socially-regulated use of khat has been eroded. Some individuals have developed excessive consumption patterns, either using khat daily or in binge-sessions, though daily consumption is not necessarily problematic per se. The majority of users seem to use khat in moderation, where the associated harms appear low. For excessive users, harms associated with khat are greater, particularly relating to mental health. Social harms also seem to be largely related to excessive khat use rather than khat use itself. Even in cases of excessive khat use, however, causal relationships between chewing and harms have not been described. More research is required to establish the role of khat in liver disease, coronary problems, cancers of the digestive tract and incidents of domestic violence. Studies should consider the likeliness that certain users are more vulnerable to developing patterns of excessive khat use due to an interwoven set of factors such as social health determinants and pre- and post-migration experiences.