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Coulson C, Caulkins JP. 
“Scheduling of Newly Emerging Drugs: A Critical Review of Decisions Over 40 Years”. 
Addiction. 2011 Oct 25.
AIMS: Decisions on whether and how to 'schedule' drugs (i.e. to determine their legal status and penalties to be applied for sale or possession) are often heavile criticised. We sought to assess more comprehensively the results of such decisions for newly emerging drugs.

METHODS: Through analysis of legislation and secondary sources, we identified 63 substances that have emerged since 1971, including all that have been added to the most restrictive schedule by the U.N., U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and/or New Zealand.

MEASUREMENTS: For each jurisdiction we recorded whether, when, and how the substance was scheduled and note what decisions engendered substantial criticism or controversy within the international treaties' framework of balancing medical benefits with risk of abuse.

FINDINGS: (1) The rate of emergence of new drugs has been steady. (2) There is broad cross-national agreement on what should be scheduled. (3) The U.S. often acts first. (4) Temporary bans that delay final decisions by 12 - 18 months can sometimes allow final decisions to be grounded on a substantially expanded research base. (5) It appears that no more than 7 of the decisions the U.S. reached with respect to the 63 substances are candidates for being considered errors, and arguably the U.S. has committed at most one serious Type I and one serious Type II error. Results for other countries are broadly similar. Conclusions: The process for determining the legal status of new psychoactive substances appears to conform to international treaty obligations. Criticisms relate to one or a few substances (e.g., MDMA) and/or complaints that the decisions discount benefits that are not recognized by the treaties (e.g., recreational or religious use).
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