Crackdown eyed for uncontrolled drugs

The health ministry plans to crack down on uncontrolled drugs sold at head shops nationwide by setting up a system to classify them as narcotics, according to ministry officials.

Many of the uncontrolled drugs available in shops and over the Internet are similar in effect to stimulants and other illegal drugs. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to establish the designation system in fiscal 2005, the officials said Tuesday.

An uncontrolled drug will be designated as a narcotic if harmful effects are confirmed by animal tests and other means, they said.

Japan has made certain drugs illegal after they were designated as narcotics by other countries and international bodies. But abuse of uncontrolled drugs continues because new types frequently appear and can be easily obtained via the Internet.

A ministry official said the ministry cannot wait for other countries to regulate such drugs, although many of the uncontrolled drugs available in Japan are already illegal in other countries.

“We hope to promote positive action with Japan’s own evaluation system,” the official said. There are three types of uncontrolled drugs in terms of chemical structure. The ministry plans to designate one uncontrolled drug from each of these types each year as a narcotic.

The ministry will buy uncontrolled drugs from head shops and have them analyzed by the National Institute of Health Sciences.

In August, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government decided to regulate uncontrolled drugs by ordinance, and asked an advisory panel to examine the plan.

There are more than 100 head shops selling uncontrolled drugs in Tokyo alone. However, it is difficult to trace the total amount traded because many uncontrolled drugs are also sold via the Internet and on the street.