• Kyodo

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The number of cases involving quasi-legal drugs that authorities took action against in the first half of 2015 rose to 633, nearly five times more than the 127 reported in the same period the previous year, a police report showed Thursday.

The preliminary report by the National Police Agency also said the police began investigating most cases last year and only 169 cases, or about 26.9 percent, were new, signaling “the pace of fresh detection has been falling as a result of enhanced crackdowns,” according to an NPA official.

The cases involve drugs chemically resembling or having similar effects to illegal narcotics, such as stimulants and marijuana or regulated drugs, as well as those containing quasi-legal or illegal substances while claiming they do not.

The number of deaths believed to have been caused by the use of the drugs dropped to seven from the previous year’s 26, while the number of people killed in drug-related traffic accidents fell to zero from three, and those injured to nine from 51, the report said.

There were 39 cases of drug smuggling uncovered involving 43 people. That compares to the previous year’s two cases that involved five people. The increased numbers come after an amended customs law came into effect in April to include designated drugs that are now illegal to import.

Travelers from China were the most apprehended with 21 cases, followed by Canada with 10 and Britain with four.

The report showed a possible shift of where people obtain such drugs after police clampdowns lowered the number of stores selling the items to zero by July from 215 in March last year.

Of the 163 people involved in the cases detected this year, 63 said they obtained the drugs over the Internet and 28 said they did so at stores on the street, while the total for the latter, including cases where the investigations started last year or before, was 186, according to the report.

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