NRG-1 may be next legal high to face ban by minister
Government advisers to investigate possible ban on NRG-1
NRG-1, a synthetic chemical suppliers have called the new legal high and which government advisers are considering banning
The government's official drug advisers are to look at banning a synthetic chemical marketed as NRG-1 that they fear will become the next popular legal high when mephedrone is banned in a fortnight.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is also to launch an urgent investigation into the whole range of legal highs now available in Britain. It will look at setting up an early warning system to identify new drugs that emerge on the market and quickly limit their spread.
The ACMD's chair, Professor Les Iversen, has also made clear to the home secretary, Alan Johnson, that their recommendation to ban mephedrone, the imitation amphetamine, as a class B drug does not rest on its possible link to 25 deaths in England and Scotland.
In its report publishedtonight on mephedrone and related compounds, the ACMD also cited the risk of dependence because of re-dosing or "fiending", the involvement of organised crime groups in its supply, its widespread and sudden popularity amongst youths, and its price – £10 a gram – as reasons for the ban.
Iversen has told the home secretary that the ACMD will issue advice on another legal high marketed as NRG-1. The chemical description of this drug is the "napthyl analogue of pyrovalerone". Pyrovalerone is already a banned class C drug in Britain. It is widely prescribed in France as an appetite suppressant. The south-east Asian chemists who have flooded the market with mephedrone and with Spice, a herbal high similar to cannabis which was banned last month, have synthesised this new legal alternative, suppliers said.
A British supplier based in Belgium was quoted by Sky News as saying NRG-1 was being marketed as a mephedrone replacement and could cost as little as 25p a hit.
The early warning system to identify emerging drugs will include analysis of examination of "drug amnesty bins" in clubs. A Home Office spokesman said: "We continue to monitor the emergence and harms of new legal highs to ensure that our approach is proportionate and evidence based."
The ACMD's mephedrone report acknowledges the only evidence so far that it could kill rests on the fact it has been found present at seven out of 18 postmortems into suspected deaths in England. "That mephedrone may have been involved in a death cannot be confirmed until the relevant coroner or procurator fiscal has concluded his inquest," it says.
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 April 2010 22.33 BST