Unprecedented growth in legal highs

The unprecedented growth in "legal highs" has led to 348 new types of synthetic drugs appearing in more than 90 countries in every region of the world, the UN drug agency has reported.

The UN office on drugs and crime said the majority of the new psychoactive substances had emerged only in the past five years and the actual number available may be significantly higher than the 348 officially reported so far. Nearly 100 new substances have emerged in the last year alone, in further evidence of the establishment of a new global market.

The UN special report said the fact that legal highs were no longer restricted to niche markets but available worldwide was a particularly worrying development. The agency said the evidence from almost all regions was that synthetic drugs were gaining popularity among young people.

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