Correspondence

Circular 001/2015: A Change to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971: control of AH-7921, LSD–related compounds, tryptamines, and rescheduling of GHB

A Change to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Detail

  • The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2014 (S.I. 2014/3271)
  • The Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (Amendment) (No. 3) (England, Wales and Scotland) Order 2014 (S.I. 2014/3276)
  • The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment No. 3) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 2014/3277)

This circular draws attention to the contents of the above Statutory Instruments (S.I.), S.I 2014/ 3271, S.I. 2014/3276 and S.I. 2014/3277 which come into force at 00:01 on 7 January 2015.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2014 classifies:

  • the synthetic opioid AH-7921 as a Class A drug
  • the LSD-related compounds commonly known as ALD-52, AL-LAD, ETH-LAD, PRO-LAD and LSZ as Class A drugs,
  • the compounds captured by the extended definition of tryptamines, which now include compounds commonly known as AMT and 5-MeO-DALT, as Class A drugs.

The Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (Amendment) (No. 3) (England, Wales and Scotland) Order 2014 amends the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2001 to “designate” the synthetic opioid AH-7921, the LSD-related compounds and the compounds captured by the extended definition of tryptamines as controlled drugs to which section 7(4) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 applies, because they have no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses outside of research. This means that it is unlawful to possess, supply, produce, import or export these drugs except under a Home Office licence for research or “other special purpose”.

The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment No. 3) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2014 (“the 2014 Regulations”) amend the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (“the 2001 Regulations”) to add the synthetic opioid AH-7921, the named LSD-related compounds and the compounds captured by the extended definition of tryptamines to Schedule 1. The 2014 Regulations also reschedules 4-Hydroxy-n-butyric acid (GHB) from Schedule 4 to Schedule 2 to the 2001 Regulations. GHB is not being reclassified.

The codes for recording drug offences relating to these substances by the police and the courts for statistical purposes within the Home Office Recorded Crime and Ministry of Justice Court Appearance Database (CAD) - which includes cautions - are set out in Annex A.

The SIs together with explanatory memoranda are available at www.legislation.gov.uk. They are also published by The Stationery Office – telephone orders/general enquiries on 0870 600 5522 or online.

Background

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (“the 1971 Act”) controls drugs that are ‘dangerous or otherwise harmful’, primarily under a 3-tier system of classification (Classes A, B and C) which provides a framework within which criminal penalties are set with reference to the harm that a drug has, or is capable of having, when misused and the type of illegal activity undertaken in relation to that drug. The control and classification of the drugs listed above is predicated on an assessment of their respective harms and is made in accordance with recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (as amended) (S.I. 2001/3998) regulates the availability of controlled drugs by placing them in 1 of 5 schedules to the Regulations according to their recognised uses as medicines or research compounds. The Schedule into which a drug is placed primarily dictates the extent to which it is lawful to import, export, produce, supply and administer and possess the drug and also imposes requirements around prescription writing, record keeping, labeling and safe custody. Drugs which have no legitimate uses are “designated” and placed in Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations which means that they are subject to the strictest levels of control.

Specific drugs

AH-7921

AH-7921 is a potent synthetic analgesic. The ACMD reports that AH-7921 has a similar potency to morphine and is highly addictive. Harms from AH-7921 misuse are reported as severe pain and death. The compound is being permanently controlled as a Class A drug under the 1971 Act.

AH-7921 is inserted into Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations and designated as a drug to which section 7(4) of the 1971 Act applies because it has no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research use which will be enabled under a Home Office licence.

The LSD-related compounds (ALD-52, ETH-LAD, PRO-LAD, AL-LAD and LSZ) are potent hallucinogens which are being offered for sale on some specialist websites as new psychoactive substances which have similar physical effects to controlled Class A drug LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide).

These LSD-related compounds are inserted into Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations and designated as drugs to which section 7(4) of the 1971 Act applies because they have no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research use which will be enabled under a Home Office licence.

Tryptamines

Tryptamines are hallucinogens, a large number of which are currently controlled under the 1971 Act as Class A drugs via generic, or group, definition. The ACMD reports that in recent years there has been significant interest in hallucinogens of this type. A number of these substances which fall outside of the current generic definition are offered for sale as new psychoactive substances. Two in particular, alpha-methyltryptamine (AMT) and 5-methoxy daillyltryptamine (5-MeO-DALT) have been routinely encountered through the Home Office’s Forensic Early Warning System. The physical effects of these substances are reported to include visual illusion, hallucination and euphoria. The ACMD also reports a small number of confirmed post mortem toxicology reports rising from 1 in 2009 to 4 in 2013, with AMT being the most frequently linked to reported tryptamine-related deaths.

The 2014 Regulations insert the compounds captured by the extended generic definition of tryptamines into Schedule 1 to the 2001 Regulations. These substances are also designated as drugs to which section 7(4) of the 1971 Act applies because they have no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses beyond potential research use which will be enabled under a Home Office licence.

GHB

The 2014 Regulations also reschedules 4-hydroxy-n-butyric acid (GHB) under the 2001 Regulations.

GHB is a naturally occurring substance found in the human central nervous system, as well as in animals and plants in small amounts. It is used as a sedative medication and an anaesthetic. It is also used as a treatment for narcolepsy and for conditions such as insomnia, clinical depression and alcoholism.

GHB is also misused, and often referred to as a ‘date rape’ drug. Its harmful effects when misused include coma, low heart rate and hypothermia. In June 2013, following a review of its misuse and harms, the United Nations rescheduled GHB under the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. In light of this, the ACMD reviewed the available evidence on prescribing, diversion, misuse and harms of GHB. The ACMD subsequently recommended that it should be rescheduled to Schedule 2 to the 2001 Regulations to reflect its international rescheduling and ensure that it remains available for use in healthcare but under an appropriate level of regulation to further reduce the risks of diversion and misuse.

The effect of rescheduling GHB to Schedule 2 to the 2001 Regulations is that it is now subject to the prescription writing, requisition, destruction and safe custody requirements when used in healthcare.

Annex A - Offence recording codes

The codes for recording offences by the police and the courts for statistical purposes within the Home Office Recorded Crime and Ministry of Justice Court Appearance Database (CAD) - which includes cautions - are as follows:

In relation to AH-7921, the LSD –related compounds (ALD-52, ETH-LAD, PRO-LAD, AL-LAD and LSZ) and the tryptamines, these are to be placed under existing codes relating to ‘Other Class A’ drugs as follows:

  • 092/19- Production of or being concerned in production of a controlled drug – Class A
  • 092/39 - Supplying or offering to supply or being concerned in supplying or offering to supply a controlled drug – Class A
  • 092/59 - Possession of a controlled drug – Class A
  • 092/79 - Possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply – Class A
  • 093/19 - Permitting premises to be used for unlawful purposes – Class A

Offences under s.19(a) and 19(b) of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 will fall under the appropriate sub-classification code for either Class A, B or C drugs. Codes 77/53, 77/54, 77/55, 77/57 and 77/58 refer.

Importation and Exportation offences under s. 50(2), (3) & (5) and s. 68(2) & (4)) and s.170 (1), (2), (3) & (4) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 will fall under the appropriate sub-classification code for either Class A, B or C drugs. Codes 92/03, 92/04, 92/05, 92/06, 92/07 and 92/08 refer.

Forces are required to record seizures of the drugs being controlled that occur from 7 January 2015. Home Office Statistics will advise of new codes when the 2014/15 data templates (with revised guidance) are distributed in the autumn of 2014.