'Legal high' hallucinogen ban urged

Messenger Newspapers: Drugs watchdogs want the banning of AMT from which teenager Adam Hunt died (Hampshire Police/PA) Drugs watchdogs want the banning of AMT from which teenager Adam Hunt died (Hampshire Police/PA)

A potentially deadly "legal high" should be banned and controlled as tightly as cocaine and heroin, drugs watchdogs have told the Government.

AMT, a powerful hallucinogen which acts in a similar way to LSD, should be made a Class A substance, according to experts at the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

Last year Adam Hunt, 18, died after taking the substance at his home in Southampton, Hampshire, after buying it on the internet.

Today the ACMD, which advises ministers on drugs-related issues, said AMT should be banned along with other substances in a group of chemicals known as tryptamines.

The family also includes 5-MeO-DALT, known as "rockstar" or "green-beans".

Experts at the ACMD have gathered evidence showing the "highly potent" drugs have become widely available but they currently fall outside drugs laws.

Some tryptamines are already covered but the council is calling for the description of the family to be expanded to ensure newly created substances are banned.

The ACMD also recommended prohibiting the synthetic opiate AH-7921, which has been sold online as a "research chemical" but is also referred to as "legal heroin". It mimics the effects of morphine.

Professor Les Iversen said: "People should be under no illusion, these substances marketed as so-called 'legal highs' can cause serious damage to your health and in some cases, even death.

"The ACMD has prioritised its research on legal highs, particularly those found to be the most potent and harmful, and will continue to review new substances picked up by the Forensic Early Warning System.

"The UK is leading the way by using generic definitions to ban groups of similar compounds to ensure we keep pace with the fast moving marketplace for these drugs."

Mr Hunt, a keen football fan, died in August after taking AMT.

The teenager told his friend in the days before his death that he had bought two grams of the substance, an inquest heard.

Pathologist Dr Brian Green told the hearing that a post-mortem examination found that Mr Hunt died of multiple organ failure caused by taking a dose of almost 1g of AMT.

Recording a conclusion that Mr Hunt's death was accidental caused by the experimental taking of AMT, coroner Keith Wiseman said: ''Anyone taking this kind of drug in any kind of quantity is potentially walking into the unknown, into disaster really.''

Last month more than 20 UK music festivals announced they were banning the sale of legal highs.

It came after Home Office minister Norman Baker warned authorities are involved in a "race with chemists" in India and China who are producing potentially dangerous new legal highs on a weekly basis.

The number of deaths associated with novel psychoactive substances - otherwise known as legal highs - rose from 10 in 2009 to 68 in 2012, according to data published in the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (NPSAD) report, compiled by experts at St George's, University of London.

Responding to the ACMD recommendation, crime prevention minister Mr Baker said today: "The coalition Government is determined to clamp down on so-called 'legal highs', which is why I commissioned a review to see how best we can combat this dangerous trade.

"I am concerned about the availability of drugs like AH-7921 and tryptamines such as AMT, which have been linked to a number of deaths in Britain. Despite being marketed as legal alternatives to banned drugs, users cannot be sure what so-called 'legal highs' contain and the impact they will have on their health.

"I am grateful to the ACMD for their advice on these substances and we will respond in due course."

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