Monitoring novel psychoactive substances allegedly offered online for sale in Persian and Arabic languages
BACKGROUND: Numbers of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) have been rapidly increasing over the past few years, with unprecedented challenges on traditional drug control systems. The web has been involved in the promotion and knowledge dissemination of NPS, which are being presented online as safer/legal alternatives to illicit drugs. The physical, psychological and social harms associated with NPS have been studied so far mainly in Europe and other English speaking countries. The aim of this research is to provide knowledge on the provision of NPS information/purchase opportunities to Middle East customers, whilst monitoring the Internet in Arabic and Farsi. METHODS: Web analysis/assessments were carried out in both Farsi and Arabic between 2011 and 2013. Sources were scrutinized with the help of different search engines, including Google Arabic and Google Persian, to carry out searches focusing on both NPS retailers' and social network websites. RESULTS: The research identified 45 NPS apparently offered for purchase online. Most of these products were of synthetic origin; a few herbal stimulants were identified as well. The pro drug websites were not here easily identified, being hidden behind other, unrelated, websites. CONCLUSION: Present results may constitute a public health challenge to be considered at both national and worldwide level. New legislative frameworks should also be encouraged in order to ensure a better response to the current threat posed by rapid emergence of these substances.