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King LA, Kicman AT. 
“A brief history of 'new psychoactive substances'”. 
Drug Test Anal. 2011 Jul 22;3(7-8):401-3.
This special issue of DTA is devoted to what were once known as ‘designer drugs’, but in recent times have been described informally as ‘legal highs’. The preferred term, as adopted by the EuropeanCommunity in2005[1,2] is ‘newpsychoactive substances’. They are defined as ‘Narcotic or psychotropic drugs that are not scheduledundertheUnitedNations1961or1971Conventions,but whichmay pose a threat to public health comparable to scheduled substances’. Council Decision 2005/387/JHA superseded an earlier arrangement, known as the ‘Joint Action on New Synthetic Drugs’ that had been in operation since 1997. It provides a framework for the reporting of new substances (the ‘Early Warning System’), a mechanism for formal risk-assessment of selected candidates and eventual EU-wide control where appropriate. The word ‘new’ means newly misused; in reality, nearly all of the substances encountered were first synthesized many years ago.

These compounds can be distinguished from what we might call the classical drugs of misuse (e.g. amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, cannabis) because the former have had little or no history of medicinal use. Following the appearance on the illicit drug market in the USA of a number of fentanyl derivatives, for example, α-methylfentanyl and 3-methylfentanyl, together with certain derivatives of α-prodine, the reverse ester of pethidine (meperidine), the term ‘designer drugs’ was created in 1984.[3,4] They were definedas ‘analogues,or chemical cousins,of controlled substances that are designed to produce effects similar to the controlled substances theymimic’. Thesehighlypotent substitutes for heroin caused a number of accidental deaths. Furthermore, a synthetic contaminant (MPTP) in an α-prodine derivative[3] led to chemically induced Parkinson’s disease in a number of injecting drugusers.Not surprisingly, interest indesignernarcotic analgesics soon disappeared.
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