Tox Tuesday: Drug news roundup

As the global fight against drug abuse continues, we hear a lot about the ongoing opioid epidemic, and how drug purity levels seem to be rising around the world. Here’s some of the latest news in the drug sphere.

Prescription drug abuse increasing in the United Kingdom

Legal prescription drugs are increasingly abused in the U.K. The Independent reports that a leading drug rehabilitation company has seen a 22% increase in admissions for prescription and over-the-counter drug addictions, including for codeine, tramadol and benzodiazepines.

The U.K. already faces high drug statistics compared to the rest of Europe. According to a report from the European Drugs Agency, almost one in three overdoses in Europe took place in the U.K. Heroin deaths are also rising in the U.K., causing over a thousand deaths in 2015 and increasing by over 100% in the past three years.

The dark net

The “dark net” may sound like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel, but it is quite real. The dark net comprises parts of the Internet that can only be accessed using certain software configurations and other tools. The World Wide Web’s alter-ego is commonly used for illegal business, including the sale and purchase of drugs.

In Finland and Norway, a high number of drug users purchase narcotics on the dark net. In the U.K., that number is growing drastically, having doubled since 2014 — 25% of drug users get their drugs online, whereas only 13% in the U.S. do, and only 7% in Australia.

The dark net and the anonymity of its users present special challenges to law enforcement officials. It also makes it easier for even school-aged youngsters to access dangerous substances that they can’t normally find around them.

Not your typical drug testing

Some health organizations are promoting a controversial measure to try and protect people from unsafe substances. The plan: to set up stations where people can bring their recreational drugs to be tested for purity.

The idea is meant to counteract rising levels of drug purity in many drugs associated with partying. For example, these days, ecstasy pills are often reported to contain 150 grams of MDMA, nearly 100 more grams than was typically reported 20-30 years ago. Proponents of the strategy hope that testing for dangerously potent drugs will prevent overdoses, even if it means allowing some usage of the drugs to slip by.

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