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United States has most online shops selling legal highs per EMCDDA-shocking information

Table 1: Likely country of origin for online shops in 2011 (*)
(Number of shops identified

United States 197
United Kingdom 121
Netherlands 61
Germany 50
New Zealand 31
Czech Republic 24
Poland 21
Canada 19
Hungary 15
Russia 11

Results
This snapshot identified 631 online shops selling new psychoactive substances/‘legal highs’
and shipping products to at least one EU Member State. This was twice the number of shops
identified in January 2011 (314 shops) and a more than three-fold increase from January
2010 (170 shops). As the search strings had been fine-tuned between the January and July
2011 snapshots, a check was undertaken to assess whether the increase resulted from these
methodological changes. A search conducted using strings identical to those used in January
generated similar results, indicating that the identified increase in number of shops was a
valid finding.
Establishing the country of origin for online shops is difficult. In cyberspace, with its lack of
geographical boundaries, it is not difficult for sites to present as having origins in one country
while operating from another. In addition, review of available indicators, such as contact
information, country code domain, currency and shipping information, can point to more than
one country. However, using the available parameters, it appeared that around a third of the
shops identified (197 of 631) were based in the United States of America, and a fifth were
based in the United Kingdom (Table 1). When compared with January 2011, the July 2011
snapshot identified a tripling of sites that were US-based and also increases in number of
shops whose country of origin appeared to be the United Kingdom, the Netherlands,
Germany, New Zealand, Poland and Canada. However, there were also exceptions to this,
with a stable number of ‘Russian’ online shops, and a slight decrease in the number of
‘Hungarian’ and ‘Romanian’ sites identified.

Most frequently identified new psychoactive substances/’legal highs on sale

Kratom
Salvia
Hallucinogenic mushrooms
MDAI (aminoindane)
Methoxetamine
(arylcyclohexylamine)
6-APB (benzofuran)-MEC (cathinone)
MDPV (cathinone)
Cactus
Methiopropamine (thiophene)
5-IAI (aminoindane)
Dimethocaine (benzoate)
Methylone (cathinone)
Hawaiian baby woodrose (active
principle lysergamides)

 

Online shops selling new drugs/‘legal highs’ operate on the edge of legality, and they are
often both vague and creative in the descriptions given of their products and their purported
uses. New psychoactive substances/‘legal highs’ may be sold as research chemicals, plant
food, bath salts, exotic incenses, room odourisers, pond cleaners etc., alongside more
indicative descriptors such as party pills, ethnobotanicals, herbal highs, and smoking blends.
The use of some of these terms has been volatile, for example mephedrone pre-control was
widely advertised as plant food, whereas after control ‘research chemical’ became common.

 

The EMCDDA’s briefing paper on ‘Online sales of new psychoactive substances / ‘legal highs’: summary of results from the 2011 multilingual snapshots’ is now available from their website.

http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/scientific-studies/2011/snapshot

http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eemcdda%2Eeuropa%2Eeu%2Fpublications%2Fscientific-studies%2F2011%2Fsnapshot&urlhash=2JK9&_t=tracking_disc

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