Home > Identifying new drugs and new drug trends with the help of drug helplines.

Long, Jean (2007) Identifying new drugs and new drug trends with the help of drug helplines. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 23, Autumn 2007 , p. 22.

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In July 2007 the European Foundation of Drug Helplines (FESAT) published the results from its thirteenth monitoring project.1 Since the beginning of 2001 FESAT has been collecting information every six months on the types of person contacting helplines, the content of these calls and how this has changed compared to the previous six months. According to the author, the main objective of this monitoring is to identify the emergence of new drugs and new drug trends; the data cannot quantify the size of any such changes. 

Of the 34 relevant FESAT helplines, 18 helplines in 13 European countries, including Ireland, participated in the project. This article will describe some of the main changes that were reported by the helplines in Europe during the second half of 2006 when compared to the first half of 2006. The article also presents some unpublished information from the Drugs/HIV Helpline in Ireland. 

The smallest of the 18 participating helplines in Europe answered an average of one call every second day, and the largest, 108 calls per day. Seven helplines answered 10 calls or fewer per day; eight helplines answered 11 to 30 calls; two helplines answered 31 to 60 calls and one helpline answered 61 or more calls. Half of the helplines answer 16 or more calls per day. The Drugs/HIV Helpline in Ireland answered an average of 15 calls per working day, though this figure included calls about sexual health. There were 1,875 calls between July and December 2006, which represents a 12% decrease when compared to the preceding six-month period. This decrease is consistent with other years, as the helpline receives more calls in the first six months of the year than in the second six months; this might be explained by summer and Christmas holidays (Aileen Dooley, personal communication, 2007). 

The FESAT report notes a decline in the numbers of helplines reporting calls about cocaine and cannabis across Europe and an increase in the number of calls about GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) (six helplines), amphetamines (five helplines) and benzodiazepines (five helplines). The number of helplines answering calls about alcohol (six helplines) remained stable. There were decreases in the numbers of calls about injecting heroin, magic mushrooms and ecstasy. 

In Ireland, there was a large decrease in the number of calls to the Drugs/HIV Helpline about cocaine, from 226 in the first half of 2006 to 166 in the second half of 2006. There was some decrease in the number of calls about alcohol, from 238 in the first half of 2006 to 201 in the second half of 2006. There was a large decrease in the number of calls about cannabis, amphetamines and injecting heroin in the second half of 2006 when compared to the first half of 2006. There was some increase in the number of calls about poppers (Aileen Dooley, personal communication, 2007). 

During the second half of 2006, two helplines in Europe received calls about drugs that had not been reported to them before. The Drugs/HIV Helpline in Ireland answered calls about five substances for the first time. Chief among these was LSA (d-lysergic acid amide), which occurs in the seeds of the morning glory plant and has hallucinogenic effects. Bearing out reports from the Forensic Science Laboratory in Ireland, the Irish helpline answered calls about benzylpiperazine (also known as BZP and marketed as ‘Jacks’), which is taken orally and has effects similar to those of ecstasy. Also new to the Irish helpline in 2006 were calls about GHB, which is normally available as a liquid. Other substances mentioned for the first time were Salvia and Subutex.  Salvia divinorum has hallucinogenic effects and can be smoked or chewed. Subutex (buprenorphine) is an opiate used in the management of opiate addiction. The Norwegian helpline reported first-time calls about the opioid analgesic tramadol (trade name Tramal), which is normally taken orally as a capsule, but which can be injected. 

1. Hibell B (2007) FESAT Monitoring Project ­– Changes during the second half of 2006. Brussels: FESAT (The European Foundation of Drug Helplines). 

More information about FESAT can be found at www.fesat.org

The Drugs/HIV Helpline in Ireland is a confidential, freephone, active listening service offering non-directive support, information, guidance and referral to anyone with a question related to substance use or HIV and sexual health. Set up in July 1997, the service is funded and managed by the Health Service Executive. The freephone number is 1800 459 459. The Helpline manager is Aileen Dooley.

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 23, Autumn 2007
Date:July 2007
Page Range:p. 22
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 23, Autumn 2007
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Prevention approach > Prevention through information and education
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Identification and screening > Identification and screening for drugs and alcohol use
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Prevention programme or service
VA Geographic area > Europe
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Prevention by sponsor or setting > Community-based prevention

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