The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA) published its annual report this week. It shows that the UK is home to over a third of all online legal high retailers.
The Government has already announced it intends to ban man-made chemicals and cannabinoids which are sprayed on herbal smoking products such as "Spice" and the chemical solvent GBL by year-end.
Commenting on the legal high phenomenon, Wolfgang Gotz, the director of EMCDDA, had this to say:
"Attempts to circumvent drug control by marketing unregulated substitutes are not new. What is new is the wide range of substances now on offer, the growing use of the internet, the aggressive and sophisticated marketing of products and the very speed with which the market reacts to controls.
"'Spice' may provide us with a warning of problems to come. The ability of sophisticated chemists, often located outside of European jurisdictions, to cheaply conduct organic synthesis, potentially provides access to a considerable number of psychoactive substances.
"This can bring into the picture whole new chemical groups, comprising many analogues, which can be difficult to detect and pose considerable difficulties for control policies based on individual compounds.
"Moreover, as some of these substances may have legitimate uses or be sold supposedly for legitimate purposes, they can fall between drug control and trade regulation."
Illicit UK drug use
The annual report shows that cannabis use in the UK has been steadily declining since around 2003 - particularly among the 16-24 age group - which suggests "a generational shift." In the early and mid-1990s, the UK stood out in Europe as the country reporting the highest prevalence of use.
There was also good news on amphetamine use: among young adults aged 15-34, use has declined substantially from 6.2% in 1998 to 1.8% in 2008.
Cocaine use increased, however, and the UK stands second in the table of countries with the highest prevalence of use, behind Spain.