Home Office drugs policy suffered a further set-back today with the revelation that unscrupulous drug barons may be able to get round the controversial Psychoactive Substances Law by creating and selling new products, including feelgood cheese – and hallucinogenic chocolate.
The new law, already much ridiculed, suffered one major reverse, when experts pointed out that poppers – one of the original targets of this legislation – might not be criminalised after all, as they are not actually psychoactive.
On Wednesday (March 30) it was officially confirmed implementation of the bill is likely to be delayed by at least a month while police and Home Office try to work out what they have actually banned.
However, the icing on the cake – or perhaps the cheese on the toast – arrived in the form of confidential research put together by Italian Food Scientist Professor Luigi Topo, and submitted to the Home Office last week. This looked at how chemicals already present in a range of everyday foodstuffs, and with a known psychoactive effect, could be enhanced and concentrated to create new foods at least as powerful as existing legal highs: but because of the way the law is worded, there would be nothing that the authorities could do to prevent this.
According to Topo: “There has long been anecdotal evidence of a link between cheese and extreme dream experiences.”
Citing a paper by neuroscientist, Jordan Lewis, he went on: “This is supposedly due to the relatively high tryptophan content in cheese, an amino acid involved in the production of melatonin (and serotonin), which plays an important role in our sleep-wake cycle.
Tryptamine is a common chemical precursor for serotonin and other related alkaloids, some of which are involved in the hallucinogenic effects of psilocybin (“magic” mushrooms) and DMT.
An alternative theory proposes that the tyramine content in cheese affects noradrenaline release in an area of the brain called the locus coeruleus, a region important in our sleep-wake cycle. This may then alter our dream patterns, unconsciously exciting us.
Many other types of foods, including cured meats, egg whites and soybeans,contain chemical compounds like tyramine and tryptophan capable of affecting our neurotransmitter systems.
The difficulty now facing government scientists, according to Topo, is that the new law specifically excludes “any substance which (a)is ordinarily consumed as food, and (b)does not contain a prohibited ingredient.”
Prohibited ingredients in this context are any psychoactive substance “which is not naturally occurring in the substance”.
However, if cheese – and a range of other foodstuffs – already include psychoactive substances, then the natural next step for those who have already outwitted the authorities by continually inventing new and legal highs, is to develop foods which concentrate those substances.
Police forces up and down the country will then be called on to determine the point at which a naturally occurring psychoactive substance crosses the threshold into unlawfulness. Such a task is likely to prove expensive if not impossible to carry out.
A further source of difficulty is likely to be chocolate, which is already known to contain a wide range of psychoactive substances, including caffeine (specifically exempted by the current lawa), a number of cannabinoids, similar in composition to the active ingredient in marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol-9) as well as phenylethylamine produces a similar effect to the one produced by amphetamines, and is classified as a hallucinogen.
Problems for cat lovers
Bad news, too, for cat lovers, as Topo points out that the jury is out on catnip. While its effect as a stimulant on cats is well documented, its effect on humans is more controversial: some researchers suggest no effect; but others have claimed to find catnip acts as both relaxant and mild aphrodisiac – which would therefore make future sales of catnip problematic, if not outright unlawful.
The Home Office declined to comment.