Since We Last Spoke: The Drug War’s New Front - Pacific Standard

Since We Last Spoke: The Drug War’s New Front

New twists on past stories.
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Matt Bowden poses in his pharmaceutical laboratory in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared on on September 16th, 2016, with the headline “How Entrepreneurs Rely on Globalization to Develop Their Synthetic Drugs.” This edited version was published in our January/February 2017 print issue.

New Zealand’s government has been one of the most forward-thinking in addressing a surge in new synthetic drugs, as Maia Szalavitz explained in her profile of the Kiwi entrepreneur Matt Bowden. Until the nation scaled back its progressive drug policies in 2014, Bowden was able to create safe, legal alternatives to party drugs like methamphetamine. Meanwhile, countries like the United Kingdom and Ireland have enacted draconian blanket-bans on the manufacture of new synthetic drugs. These have done little to stymie production of new, dangerous compounds, argues a new commentary published in the academic journal Addiction. According to the authors, Michael Evans-Brown and Roumen Sedefov of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 600 new psychoactive substances have emerged — and most of those were detected within the last five years.