A new legal high called AH-791 has hit the UK and already claimed one life. The drug is a synthetic opiate producing similar result to heroin and is linked to deaths in several European countries.
The drug is not actually all that new. It was created in the 1970s and was designed as a pain reliever. It was licensed and was shelved as people became aware of the addictive nature of opiates.
Experts believe the drug was resurrected by legal high providers using old scientific texts. They are now selling it in hundreds of online stores and physical shops.
What makes AH-791 different from most legal highs is its formula. Most legal highs have been created to mimic the effects of ecstasy, cannabis, amphetamines or cocaine. This is one of only a small number of opiate legal highs.
The government is already taking notice and AH-791 is drawing fire from the Minister of State Crime Prevention, Norman Baker. He said that he was shocked at the appearance of this new synthetic opioid and worried about the changing drug landscape.
The reason this drug and other legal highs are so worrying is because they represent a gaping hole in UK drug laws. Currently a law can only be passed outlawing a single substance. That means the government can ban a specific chemical formula. Change that formula, even slightly, and the process of banning it has to start all over again. The UK has already banned 250 legal highs but it is estimated that that a new legal high comes onto the market every week. This makes it virtually impossible to outlaw them all.
The number of deaths in 2012 was 68. This is an increase of 58 from 2009. As these legal highs become more common, the UK will continue to see the death toll climb.