WIMMERA drug markets could become saturated with copycat synthetic drugs within the next 10 years.
The drugs – popular in European drug markets – are designed to imitate the effect of ecstasy, cannabis or LSD, giving people a legal high.
Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce co-ordinator Brendan Scale heard about the effect of the synthetic drugs at the 2013 National Drug Trends Conference on Tuesday.
“We follow the European market, just about 10 years behind and they feature strongly over there so they might be appearing in country Victoria in about 10 years,” he said.
“Even though these drugs are found in Melbourne, we can be thankful that there isn’t a wide distribution in the Wimmera yet.
“The difficult thing is that there is no research to show what their long-term impacts are.”
The State Government plans to broaden its ban on synthetic drugs with tough new legislation introduced to parliament this week.
Police Minister Kim Wells said synthetic drugs could be just as damaging for people’s health as the substances they were based on.
“These laws will also quash the ridiculous notion that people can achieve ‘legal highs’ by using these untested substances when, in fact, they are putting their health and safety at risk of untold damage,” he said.
But Mr Scale, who is also a Grampians Community Health alcohol and other drugs counsellor, said synthetic drugs were notoriously hard to control.
“They are being produced so quickly that law makers and health care providers can’t keep up,” he said.
“By the time they are banned, the drug makers change the molecular structures of the drug slightly to get around the ban and the drugs are back on the market.
“A popular website where people could buy substances, Silk Road, has been shut down but what we have learnt is that it won’t take long before other websites pop up.”
Mr Scale said the national conference highlighted that the taskforce was on the right track.
“Other rural, and even metropolitan, organisations don’t have what we have in the Wimmera,” he said.
“They are like silos that stand alone, while organisations across the region here are working together.
“That is why other organisations are coming to us and wanting to work with us.”
The taskforce is a partnership between Grampians Community Health, Grampians Medicare Local, police, the Salvation Army, Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly, the Red Cross’ Save A Mate program and community representatives.