GHB and 1,4-Butanediol to be classified

Published: Thu 19 Jul 2001 03:22 PM
Fantasy drugs GHB and 1,4-Butanediol to be classified
The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs has agreed that the 'Fantasy' range of drugs, including Gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB), 1,4 butanediol, (1,4-B) and GBL should be scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
Committee chair, Dr Bob Boyd said that after considering the available evidence the committee had agreed that scheduling the substances under the Act would help protect individuals and the community from the harm associated with these drugs. When using these drugs there is a fine line between achieving the effect the drug taker is seeking, and having an overdose resulting in potentially serious consequences.
"The Committee was clear that the availability of these substances was not in the public interest. Scheduling these drugs is the first step in the process, which must include improving and developing complementary initiatives such as education campaigns on keeping safe around dance parties and drugs in an effort to reduce harm."
The Committee first considered these drugs at its inaugural meeting on 29 May, but called for more information before it could make a specific recommendation regards classification. Minutes of this meeting, and a copy of the EACD's terms of reference can now be obtained from the Ministry of Health, and will soon be published on the National Drug Policy Website (
A further meeting via teleconference was held this week to consider the additional information. The Committee is now in the process of finalising its advice to the Associate Minister of Health about which schedule in the Act is most appropriate for these drugs. A report to the Minister is expected to be completed by late August.
Dr Boyd said consideration of issues relating to drug classification does take time, but the committee must be sure its advice is based on sound evidence.
Classification is based on the risk of harm to individuals or society. For example substances which have a very high risk of harm are classified as Class A drugs, those with high risk of harm are Class B and those with moderate risk of harm, Class C.
After the Committee has finalised its advice, a recommendation will be made to the Associate Minister of Health, Hon Tariana Turia. Following her decision, the proposed change to the legislation is considered by Parliament's Health Select Committee before the final amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act is voted on by Parliament.
For more information contact: Hayley Brock, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2115 or 025 495 989 Internet address:
1. Copy of Minutes of May 29 meeting
(See attached file: EACDmins.doc)
2. Copy of terms of reference of EACD
(See attached file: tor.doc)
Misuse of Drugs Legislation
In mid November 2000 the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act was passed.
This new law enables New Zealand to respond more quickly to emerging drug threats than was previously the case. Previously, scheduling of substances under the Act could only be done by way of Parliament amending the Act in the normal way. The passage of amendments to legislation can take some time.
While under the new process parliament will still have the final say, the scheduling of substances will be able to be made on a regular basis and faster than before.
Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs
A vital part of this process will be the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD), which was been established to advise the Minister of Health. The EACD will:
conduct evidence-based reviews of controlled drugs and other narcotic or psychotropic substances
recommend to the Minister about whether and how such substances should be classified
increase public awareness of its work by (for instance) releasing papers, reports and recommendations
Membership of the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs
Dr Bob Boyd Ministry of Health Chief Advisor, Public Health Directorate (chair)
Dr Stewart Jessamine Medsafe Senior Medical Advisor
Det Insp Harry Quinn NZ Police
Mr Andrew Coleman NZ Customs
Dr Keith Bedford expertise in toxicology
Assoc Prof Tim Maling expertise in pharmacology
Dr Helen Moriarty expertise in community medicine
Dr Geoffrey Robinson expertise in drug and alcohol treatment
Dr Douglas Sellman expertise in psychology
Mr Keremete Warbrick consumer representative
Terms of Reference
Under the Terms of Reference, there are two ways in which a drug may be considered by the committee. First, the Minister of Health or the EACD Secretariat may refer a drug to the EACD for consideration. Members of the public can also feed into this process by writing to the EACD Secretariat in the Ministry of Health Second, the EACD may itself decide to examine the classification of a particular drug.
Details of the drugs to be considered at future Committee meetings are to be published on the National Drug Policy website, and interested parties can make written submissions on drugs the EACD have decided to examine. However, all written submissions should follow a set format and the EACD will appreciate evidence-based submissions. Full details about the process for written submissions will shortly be available on the National Drug Policy website (
Criteria for Classification Decisions
The Act now requires classification of illicit drugs to be based on the risk of harm to individuals or society. Drugs posing a:
very high risk of harm should be scheduled as 'Class A'.
high risk of harm should be scheduled as 'Class B.
moderate risk of harm should be scheduled as 'Class C'.
When considering a particular drug, the EACD will be required to consider the following matters:
the likelihood or evidence of drug abuse
the specific effects of the drug
the risks to public health
the therapeutic value
the potential to case death
the ability to create physical or psychological dependence
the international classification and experience any other relevant matters.
Hayley Brock Media Advisor Communications Corporate & Information Directorate Ministry of Health DDI: 04 496 2115 Fax: 04 496 2010

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