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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Doctors map drugs on the web
Drugs
Drugs are an increasing problem
Doctors are compiling a comprehensive map of drug-related websites to aid treatment of abusers.

A team from St George's Hospital Medical School in London is scouring the web to seek out as many sites as possible that contain information about the manufacture, sale and use of recreational drugs.


We hope this will help ease public health threats linked to the newest drugs

Dr Fabrizio Schifano
The aim is to provide health workers in the European community with as much detail as possible on the latest drugs - some of which are not yet recorded in medical textbooks.

Research carried out by St George's shows that deaths from drug abuse are increasing.

Many of these deaths are caused by a cocktail of different drugs. Some are well documented, but others are less well known.

The latest drugs can make it onto the market before the professionals know what is in them, and consequently do not how to treat patients suffering from their effects.

Best information

The best source of information is often found on websites dedicated to the use and abuse of illicit substances.

Most drug-related web-sites advocate the use of drugs, and in some cases give advice on how to enhance the drug experience, how to make up your own substances, or even purchase the drugs online.

Doctors are particularly worried that this puts children and adolescents, who are among the heaviest users of the internet, particularly at risk.

The new project will be coordinated from St George's by Dr Fabrizio Schifano, a consultant psychiatrist, who will collaborate with experts from nine other European countries.

Websites will be mapped at both a national and international level.

The data will be used to provide professionals with scientifically sound and up-to-date information on the latest drugs, translated into their own languages.

Dr Schifano said: "We will identify the emerging trends in new drugs and mixtures of drugs at the regional and European level.

"An early warning system will also be developed by collecting data on the virtual drugs market.

"We hope this will help ease public health threats linked to the newest drugs."

Trends

Roger Howard, Chief Executive of the charity DrugScope, welcomed the project.

He said: "Official statistics, research and information is extremely important in drugs policy.

"However, trends in drug use are extremely fluid and as a result, official statistics often confirm what people working with drug users have known for a long time.

"The St Georges initiative will go some way to identifying those trends earlier."

See also:

15 Mar 02 | Health
31 Jul 02 | Technology
21 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
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