Recent legislation linked to decreased numbers of drug-related hospital admissions

A CVS study suggests that temporary, 12-month drug legislation plus trading standard restrictions put in place in 2015 decreased drug-related hospital admission rates in Edinburgh by 80%.

ethylphenidate, a common synthetic psychoactive drug

The substantial drop led to savings by the NHS and suggests that legal crackdowns on drugs can effectively curb harmful drug use.

This is the first study assessing the impact on hospitals of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) legislation.

In 2015, after a noticeable rise in the use of NPS, the UK Government established two temporary class drug-orders – or TCDOs. These banned import and supply of common types of NPS for 12 months. Additionally, the City of Edinburgh Council, in partnership with the police, implemented trading standards restrictions on these substances.

NPS—colloquially known as ‘legal highs’—affect the brain, alter behaviour, and can result in seizures, psychosis, and death. As they are synthetically created, NPS drugs had previously bypassed legal regulations. They have since been banned altogether.

This CVS study spanned three years, assessing anonymous patient data from before, during, and after the TCDOs were implemented. Researchers analysed drug-related hospital admissions at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and found that after the TCDOs and trading standard restrictions came into effect, there was an 80 percent reduction in hospital admissions for all forms of NPS. These legal restrictions were also associated with a reduction in the number of post-mortem examinations where NPS drugs were detected.

Experts caution that these results do not prove a causal relationship between strict drug legislation and decreased hospital admittance, but claim that this is the strongest existing evidence that this type of legislation can prevent drug-related harm.

Our findings suggest that TCDOs, combined with local trading standards, were very successful in reducing NPS harm in Edinburgh.“

 “Widespread adoption of trading standards enforcement, together with focused legislation, seemed to turn the tide against these highly-damaging drugs. These restrictions may have offered health benefits and saved the NHS substantial funds each year.

Lead researcher, Michael Eddleston
Professor of Clinical Toxicology at the BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science at the University of Edinburgh and consultant NHS toxicologist

This study was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology on 17 June 2018.


Related Links

Journal Article