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NETWORK A national newsletter on substance misuse management in primary care

…continued from previous page In line with this, the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol reported that in 2009, 24 new psychoactive substances were notified by the EU Early Warning System, compared to 13 in 2008 1

, including synthetic

cannabinoids, tryptamines, phenethylamines, and synthetic cathinones.

Health professionals should be aware of the ever-changing nature of recreational drug use and the potential mental and physical health issues that may be caused by the consumption of new psychoactive molecules. Patients should be asked about their use of legal highs, as well as other substances used. Conversely, because of the lack of detailed scientific knowledge on the pharmacological, metabolic, toxicological and pathological aspects of new substances when they initially appear, it is important that clinicians and other health professionals dealing with emergency presentations treat the presenting symptoms.

Doctors and other health professionals need to keep a watching brief on trends in substance use so that they are conversant with current usage patterns and the potential effects of such substances. From this point of view, the European Commission has recently funded projects such as the 2010-2012 Recreational Drugs European Network (ReDNet2

). ReDNet is a research

project which aims to develop and pilot innovative and effective information communication technologies (ICT) preventive approaches focused on novel psychoactive compounds/legal highs and combinations. Piloted ICT tools include the use of interactive websites, SMS alert, social networking (for example Facebook and Twitter), multimedia (for example YouTube), Smartphone applications ( for example iPhone), and seminars for professionals in the virtual learning environments (Second Life)3 4

of two previously EC-funded research projects, Psychonaut I and II 5

, which particularly focussed on web monitoring. Thorough

attention is also given to health professionals working directly with young people showing problematic behaviours who constantly need to receive updated and accurate information about these new substances. ReDNet has a network which is operational in eight countries; the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, and Norway.

The main objectives of the ReDNet are:

■ to design an innovative and effective ICT-based model to share knowledge and information with health/other professionals and raise awareness of the potential harms associated with new drugs

■ to identify and disseminate key recommendations relevant to the development of the awareness on novel compounds initiatives across the EU

■ to identify any remaining gaps in knowledge and methodological lessons learned

■ to inform future projects in the field of drug prevention using ICT tools.

Finally, future studies should better assess both the acute and chronic toxicity of legal highs. With a better understanding of these drugs’ clinical pharmacology, it is hopeful that related clinical management levels will improve. Furthermore, the characteristics of those consumers who take advantage of the online available information on mephedrone and similar compounds should be better assessed and, as a result, the stereotypical image of drug users may need to change6

. . These tools are developed through the use of technical/

scientific information, appropriately adapted and updated, that have been previously identified and carefully monitored by the different EU research centres. ReDNet relies on the experience

1 EMCDDA & Europol. (2009). EMCDDA–Europol 2009 Annual Report on the implementa- tion of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA - In accordance with Article 10 of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA on the information exchange, risk-assessment and control of new psychoac- tive substances. Lisbon, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction & The Hague, Europol. Available at:


3 Davey Z, Corazza O, Deluca P, Schifano F(2010). Mass-information: mephedrone, myths, and the new generation of legal highs. Drugs and Alcohol Today, 10: 24-28, 2010

4 Demetrovics Z, Ghodse AH; Psychonaut Web Mapping; ReDNet Research Groups. (2011) Mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone; ‘meow meow’): chemical, pharmacological and clinical issues. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 214: 593-602, 2011


6 Littlejohn C, Baldacchino A, Schifano F, Deluca P(2005) Internet pharmacies and online prescription drug sales: a cross-sectional study. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 12: 75-80, 2005

If you would like to know more about legal highs and the European Commission-funded ReDNet project (Principal Investigator: Professor F Schifano) updates visit the project’s website at http://

Professor Fabrizio Schifano, Chair in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Consultant Psychiatrist (Addictions),University of Hertfordshire

Paul Hayes takes us through the next steps of the Drug Strategy and argues that doctors will have a vital role to play in securing the future of effective drug and alcohol treatment locally. Ed.

The Drug

Strategy: next steps

The government’s Drug Strategy sets out a new ambition for anyone dependent on drugs or alcohol to achieve recovery, and to lead a drug-free life.

It charts a clear direction of travel for the drug treatment field in general, and

for the National Treatment Agency (NTA) in particular. It is also buttressed by a series of reforms in the NHS and public health that will dramatically change the landscape in which drug treatment and recovery is delivered.

When it published the NHS white paper last year, the government announced


that as part of these changes the NTA would cease to exist as a separate organisation and our key functions would be transferred to a new national service, Public Health England (PHE).

The companion public health white paper subsequently made clear that reducing drug use, and enabling people to overcome dependency, recover fully and contribute to society, would be a key priority for this new public health service.

The Department of Health is now taking forward the transition to PHE, under which services will in future be commissioned by local authorities through Directors of Public Health, supported by Health and Wellbeing Boards.

During the interim period the NTA will

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