Use of quasi-legal “loophole drugs” is spreading quickly and teens are getting caught up due to easy access and lack of proper awareness, the latest studies show.
According to a survey released Thursday of more than 54,000 junior high school students by the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, about 15 percent said they have access to such drugs, which are not categorized as narcotics under the law but can cause strong hallucinations and other health issues.
While 120 students, or 0.2 percent, confirmed they had used these types of drugs, some 60 percent of these users answered that they went on to try cannabis and other narcotics afterward.
The study also showed that nearly 40 percent of the teenagers said they didn’t consider loophole drugs harmful.
“We need to work especially on educating the younger generation,” Vice Health Minister Kenya Akiba said, voicing concern over the diversity of the drugs.
Loophole drugs are often marketed as legal herbs or incense but are created with similar chemicals as banned narcotics. Many have been legally prohibited but the dealers have outpaced the government by creating drugs with new chemical compositions that slip through the regulatory framework.
The NCNP survey also showed that use of loophole drugs is on the rise among adults, with many cases leading to serious drug abuse.
A separate study conducted last fall and released Thursday showed that some 16 percent of approximately 850 drug addiction cases examined stemmed from the use of quasi-legal drugs. They only trailed illegal stimulants, which were seen in 42 percent of the cases, as the leading cause of addiction.
Loophole drugs “contain substances that can harm the brain and the body,” the health ministry warns on its website, adding that using them can cause addiction and even violence against others.
Illegal substances found in Osaka herbal products
The Osaka Prefectural Government said Friday it has detected illegal chemical substances from 12 herb and liquid aroma products marketed in the prefecture.
The prefecture bought the products, including Zombie Super Red, Taboo and Effect Crazy, in December for tests, officials said.