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"If alcohol was discovered recently it would be made illegal" (Professor John Nutt, Horizon, Is alcohol worse than ecstasy? BBC, 2008)
(Horizon Alcohol and Ecstasy Tuesday 5th February 2008, 9pm, BBC Two http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/broadband/tx/drugs/survey/)
Some substances are banned outright but, addicts will always get a hold of these drugs. If they are unsuccessful in obtaining them they will, move on to something else they can get a high from and will abuse any substance they can find. UK laws do prohibit some of these substances but under special circumstances they can be allowed as long as it is monitored by a professional.
Different Drugs and their effects
Controlled substances can be classified into 3 main groups according to their effects they are Stimulants, Depressants and Hallucinogens
Stimulates Brain activity
Inhibits brain activity
Alcohol, Opiates, diazepam
Alters perception and mood
(Above) the 3 categories of effects on the body and examples of each (UWS lecture Alcohol and drugs, Science and crime, 2012)
Ecstasy or MDMA (3-4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a drug that is associated with 80's and 90's dance/ trance music culture. Its effects of making people joyful, full of energy and able to dance away for hours made it very popular to clubbers. http://www.talktofrank.com/drug/ecstasyFile:MDMA (simple).svg
Ecstasy has been classed in the UK as a Class A however on review Professor David John Nutt said to the BBC horizon program in 2008
"ecstasy seems to be in the wrong class"
When taken MDMA causes an upsurge in the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Emotional effects of this drug stem from a sudden large scale release of serotonin (a mood enhancing hormone). Serotonin is a precursor for other hormones such as Oxytosin and vasopressin these two hormones are known for their part played in emotions such as love, trust and sexual arousal therefore it is believed that this is what causes the emotional closeness and empathy that is associated with MDMA
After the high of the massive amounts of serotonin that was released begins getting used up, the brain end up completely void of serotonin. This creates after affects such as depression, confusion, anxiety and sleep problems. However these after effects are not always felt a few hours after the drug has been taken. The effects of coming down from the drug can occur anything from a few hours to a few weeks
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). When taken the recipients can alter their views on reality and they start to hallucinate. These are called 'trips' however these 'trips' can be very exhilarating for the user but they can also experience ghastly 'trips', where the user has overpowering ideas, become delusional and have terrifying hallucinations, which can lead to potential accidents.
When LSD is ingested, effects usually occur between 30 and 90 minutes later and have been known to persist for a prolonged period of time (12 hours)
Lab tests show that although still unconfirmed hallucinogens stimulate the group of serotonin receptors called 5-HT2 receptors.
Cannabis is derived from a plant known as hemp or the cannabis indica plant.
It is classified like all other life by its scientific taxonomy, which is:
Plantae - plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants
Viridaeplantae - green plants
Streptophyta - land plants
Tracheophyta - vascular plants, tracheophytes
Spermatophytina - spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames
Angiospermae - flowering plants, angiosperms, plantas com flor, angiosperma, plantes à fleurs, angiospermes, plantes à fruits
Cannabaceae - hemp
Cannabis L. - hemp
Cannabis sativa L. - hemp, grass, hashish, Mary Jane, pot, marijuana
Cannabis sativa ssp. indica (Lam.) E. Small & Cronquist - hemp, grass, hashish, Mary Jane, pot, marijuana
Cannabis sativa ssp. sativa L. - hemp, grass, hashish, Mary Jane, pot, marijuana
It is thought that the cannabis plant was originally found in the mountainous regions of India but it also grows freely in certain parts of the world.
Cannabis has been found to contain more than 400 different chemicals, including an antibiotic called Cannabidiolic acid and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the main psychoactive ingredient and is also the cause of the calm, relaxed, giggly and content feelings. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/emotional_health/addictions/cannabis.shtml)
When any THC is ingested it acts on the two cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2
CB1 receptors are found in the basal ganglia, the limbic system of the brain and the hippocampus.
The medulla oblongata is the control system that operates respiratory and cardiovascular functions. This means that THC cannot cause failure of these two systems, unlike many other drugs.
THC's ability to cause exhilarated feelings and the anticonvulsive effects are thought to be caused by stimulation of the CB1 receptor.
CB2 receptors - part of the immune system - are located within the spleen. The anti-inflammatory and restorative effects of ingesting cannabis seem to be caused by the stimulation of the CB2 receptor (http://www.news-medical.net/health/Cannabinoid-Receptors.aspx)
Ways substances are taken
The easiest way of taking drugs is to ingest them. This allows the absorption of the drugs through the stomach lining directly into the blood stream. It is safest way of ingesting drugs as the ingested substance can be taken up at a slower rate, which ensures the effects take time to be brought about. One of the roles of the digestive system is to ensure that nothing that can cause harm can enter the body. Therefore the body can start vomiting to expel the stomach contents. Alcohol Marijuana, opium, ecstasy, LSD and Mushrooms are taken orally
When injecting, a syringe is filled with a substance, which is then injected directly into the blood stream. This method means that the drug will not have to go though processes such as digestion, which normally break down some of the drug before it enters the blood stream. This is a dangerous way of taking any drugs because the recipient may be susceptible to:
Haemorrhaging, gangrene and thrombosis caused by arterial damage where the injection was given
Contaminated needles or drugs, giving an increased chance of infection from diseases such as hepatitis and HIV
Using blunt needles which can cause scarring of the vein at the injection site. This can, in serious cases, then cause the vein to collapse.
The effects of this method of delivery are just about instantaneous, normally within 3 - 5 seconds, because the drug enters the blood, and more can cross the blood brain barrier.. There are three different types of injection:
Subcutaneous injections - this is an injection which is used to deliver medication to the fatty vascular layer beneath the dermis (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/nmp/sonet/rlos/placs/subcutaneous/)
Intravenous (IV) injections - these are injections made directly into a vein
Intramuscular injections - An injection of a drug directly into the muscle (http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-zones/critical-care/skills-intramuscular-injections/205349.article)
Insufflations or snorting of drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines, is another method of administering drugs into the body. Health risks of snorting drugs include:
Damage to the lining and nasal cavity.
Damage to the cartilage separating the two nostrils.
Spread of infectious diseases (hepatitis C, HIV) through the sharing of rolled up bank notes or other items that are used to administer the drug.
The mucus membrane in the nose takes up approximately 30 - 60% of the chemicals being snorted. This high takes approximately about 15 minutes from the time of insufflation to become noticeable to the individual.
Smoking is one of the most common used routes of taking drugs. Marijuana and crystal methamphetamines are examples of drugs which can be smoked. The smoking of these drugs and the mixing of them with tobacco, can cause other diseases such as
Mouth, throat and lung cancer
Heart attacks and strokes
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Hypertension (High blood pressure)
Some drugs which are soluble in water such as speed, cocaine and ecstasy are absorbed through the rectum's mucus membrane. This method of taking drugs is a very atypical route of administering.
Taking drugs through the rectum carries a high risk of complications such as:
Burning of the mucus membrane due to an acidic or basic substance being introduced.
Perforation of the lower colon can be the result of introducing an object into the anus.
Controlled substances in the UK
In Great Britain, the possession, use and supply of some substances is banned/controlled through 3 main laws. They are:
The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971),
The Misuse of Drugs Regulations(2001)
The Drugs act(2005)
At present, parts of The Misuse of Drugs Act have now been superseded by The Misuse of Drugs Regulations and The Drugs Act.
The Misuse of drugs Act (1971)
This law covers the possession, supply, offering of free drugs and the use of drugs on premises. The misuse of drugs act specifies that it is against the law to:
Be in possession of a controlled substance without permission.
Be offering a controlled substance for sale (supply)
The supply of controlled substances in which there is no fee taken
Give permission for drug taking in a property that is yours or one that is in your care.
The misuse of drugs Act (1971) is divided into 3 separate categories Class A, Class B, Class C and the punishments for possession and intent to supply each class. Class A drugs receive the most severe punishment and Class C receive the least severe (Science and crime class at UWS lecture Drugs and Alcohol (2012))
(Below) The classifications and the penalties for possession and dealing (homeoffice.gov.uk)
Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms, amphetamines (if prepared for injection).
Up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Up to life in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Amphetamines, Cannabis, Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Pholcodine.
Up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Tranquilisers, some painkillers, Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Ketamine.
Up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
The full misuse of drugs act can be found on this web address (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/38/pdfs/ukpga_19710038_en.pdf)
The Misuse of Drugs Regulations (2001)
This law divides up the controlled substances into 5 categories and define how useful they are as a therapeutic agent and weighs it up against the probability of them being abused by addicts who do not need them. The five categories are
Schedule 1 (Controlled Drug licence)
Drugs which have been put into this category comprise of cannabis, coca leaf, LSD, mescaline ect. The production, supply and possession of these substances (with the exception of for research use) are illegal. Doctor's dentists and pharmacists cannot prescribe any of these drugs as the side effects are thought to outweigh any pharmaceutical or beneficial use they can have.
Schedule 2 (Controlled Drugs)
Schedule 2 covers controlled substances such as heroin, morphine, levorphano, cocaine, oxycodone and most of their derivatives. These drugs can be administered to a patient for medical use only and must be stored in a secured area which has been approved with access to them restricted only to people who can legally possess these drugs. Only someone under direction of a doctor or dentist or by the doctor or dentist themselves can administer someone a schedule 2 drug. All uses of them must be recorded to keep a detailed track of all drugs. Importation of drugs in Schedule 2 also requires a licence.
Schedule 3 (Controlled Drugs - no register)
These drugs have been classified as a lower risk of abuse than Schedule 2 but are similar in that they can only be legally possessed if a doctor has prescribed them. They must also be kept locked away in a secure area with limited access.
Schedule 4 of the misuse of drugs act includes drugs that don't need to be locked away however there are requirements when manufacturers and import/exporters wish to have them destroyed. No records need to be kept but if they are Imported/Exported or are produced then controlled drug registers must be kept. There are two parts of schedule 4,
Part one includes drugs which don't need to be restricted, such as benzodiazapines but not temazapam or midazolam. It is an offence to possess drugs from part 1 without a valid prescription and are under regulation when they are imported or exported.
Part 2 covers anabolic and androgenic steroids. There are no restraints for possession of these substances as long as it's part of a medicinal product.
Schedule 5 (Controlled Drug - invoice)
Section 5 of the misuse of drugs regulations covers low strength forms of drugs such as codeine morphine, but only when it's for medical use. A licenced doctor or pharmacist has the proper authorisation to produce and mix a schedule 5 drug. The only constraint on these drugs is that invoices for these drugs must be retained for at least 2 years. There are no current limits on any imports/exports, possession or dispensing of these drugs
This link shows in full, which drug classifications have been assigned to each controlled substance.
Changes to the way controlled drugs are prescribed, records that are kept regarding their use and destruction brought about the need for a new law which began on the 1st of January 2007 this is known as:
The controlled Drugs (Supervision of Management and use) Regulations (2006)
This law was brought about after serial killer Harold shipman, was convicted of murdering 15 patients using the drug diamorphine while working as a GP. In response to this the UK government ordered the shipman enquiry. It was then decided that the laws covering Controlled drugs were inadequate and needed to be looked at again.(http://www.centrallancashire.nhs.uk/Library/Documents/Board%20papers/2007/01%20January/The%20Controlled%20Drugs%20%28Supervision%20of%20Management%20and%20Use%29%20Regulations%202006.pdf)
This law was introduced to supervise the use of controlled drugs whilst not getting in the way of the reason they are needed in medicine. (http://www.telford.nhs.uk/Services/A-Z-of-Services/Medicines-Management/Controlled-Drugs/)
The Drugs Act (2005)
This act is used to deal with a range of drug problems. From a suspect who has to prove that a large amount of drugs is for personal use, to someone with an antisocial behaviour order who must be tested for drugs in there system and treatment if they are found.
The other two main clauses are that fresh magic mushrooms are illegal. In the past, only dried mushrooms were considered as a Class A drug. As well as mandatory drug testing of people in custody, this can only be carried out if the police have confidence that Class A drugs have been taken.
The use of controlled drugs is also limited by laws such as:
The Medicines Act(1968)
Governing the manufacture and supply of legal medicine is The Medicines Act. There are three categories of medical drugs
Prescription only. The most restricted category of drugs. Pharmacists can only give these out if directed by a doctor to do so.
Pharmacy medicines. This classification of drugs can only be sold with permission by a pharmacist themself.
General sales list. These medicines have strict rules on their advertising, labelling and production. However they can be sold in any shop.
Customs and Excise Management Act(1979)
Used in conjunction with the Misuse of drugs Act, this law prosecutes the unauthorised import/ export of controlled substances.
Road Traffic Act(1972)
This law states that if you are "in charge" of a motor vehicle and are incapable of maintaining complete control, you are committing an offence even if the drug taken is illegal, prescribed or if the person has inhaled a solvent.
Drug Trafficking Act(1994)
It is illegal to sell drug paraphernalia which can be used with illegal drugs. This act also allows the police to seize all of a person's assets and income even if they have not been bought with money made from drug trafficking. This can only happen if the person has been convicted of drug trafficking.
Crime and Disorder Act(1998)
This gives police the power to enforce a drug treatment and/or testing order on individuals. This only applies to people who commit crimes to fund their drug habit
The Crime Scene
When a crime has been committed, the first officer at the scene's (FAO) role is first and foremost to protect and preserve any and all life, even at the expense of important evidence. (Forensic Science, Jackson and Jackson) Next they should call for assistance i.e. other officers, Scenes of crime officers (SOCO's/CSI's). The crime scene must then be secured to protect the evidence. A forensic scientist called Dr Edmond Locard discovered the most basic principle of forensic science, which is now known as Locard's exchange principle, stating that
"In the physical world, when perpetrators enter or leave a crime scene, they will leave something behind and take something with them." (http://my.safaribooksonline.com/book/networking/forensic-analysis/9781597496612/chapter-1dot-introduction/toc15)
The FAO must also ascertain as much of the basic facts as they can, make notes and also note their first observations in addition to taking the names and contact details of any others present at the crime scene.(Forensic Science by Jackson and Jackson )
The Scenes of crime officers will arrive to process the crime scene. These highly trained officers will collect physical items that are then stored separately, packaged, labelled and are taken to the laboratory to be forensically examined. There are three specialist types of labs biology, chemistry and toxicology. Biology labs deal with crimes against others such as violent crime. Most of the samples this section of the lab will receive are fibres and body fluids for DNA testing.
Chemistry sections work involves crimes against property such as contact traces, fire investigation and restoring serial numbers but most cases in this lab involve drug analysis
Toxicology section deals with investigations into deaths that are thought to be caused by overdoses as well as analysing samples taken from drink driving cases (reality and fiction, science and crime)
Analysis of a sample
Once the substance is given to the forensic lab, samples are taken at once. There are two different tests that they are as follows to determine what a substance is these are:
Presumptive tests: these reagents are used to classify different unknown substances which can give the forensic chemist a plan of what test should be used next to analyse and identify the substance.
The colour test is the most widely used presumptive test in a lab. The colour test can be broken down into 5 different tests thest are:
This test uses the Marquis reagent (a mixture of formaldehyde and concentrated sulphuric acid) when added to amphetamines will go a orange/brown colour and in the presence of opium drugs or heroin will turn purple.
Cobalt thiocyanate is the reagent used to test for cocaine. A mixture of cobalt thiocyanate, hydrochloric acid, glycerin, distilled water and chloroform will turn blue in the presence of cocaine.
This will turn violet blue in the presence of barbiturates such as Phenobarbital. This reagent is a mixture of cobalt acetate and isopropylamine.
The test for LSD is the VanUrk test a solution of p-dimethylaminobenzaldehyde,ehyl alcohol and hydrochloric acid will turn purple when LSD is added.
This solution will turn purple in the presence of the Chemical THC which is found in marijuana.
The other general test for controlled substances is Confirmatory tests these results can be used in court to convict a suspect. The only authorized test that can be used for evidentiary purposes is GC-MS (Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry). GC-MS is two processes which have been combined to create one method of identifying chemicals.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_54vRNqM4K0 Tuesday 5th February 2008, 9pm, BBC Two