The members of Drugreporter’s video advocacy network produced a movie about the new generation of synthetic drugs that conquered Poland in 2008 – and are still popular.
In Poland, a country where the possession of even small amounts of any psychoactive substances (except alcohol and tobacco) is severely punished, the first stores offering an alternative to traditional drugs appeared in 2008. They were selling ‘dopalacze’ (energy boosters/stimulants), which is an imprecise term that comes from everyday language and was popularised by the biggest shop “Dopalacze.com”. From the beginning this term was used to describe products containing psychoactive substances that are not on the list of prohibited substances in Polish law. For many years, through many legal changes, this term has become even more blurred – at this point in time ‘boosters’ is the most common name for the group of substances that we call New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
For over a decade, the Polish government has tried to fight NPS in various ways. Initially by closing stores in 2010, then by repeatedly updating the list of banned substances. Finally, in August 2018, a new law completely banned New Psychoactive Substances through the introduction of a generic, blanket law, which included punishment for possession of up to 2 years imprisonment.
This complicated situation and specific legal changes were a motive for us to create a film in which we wanted to examine whether the steps used by the Polish government over the last decade really helped to reduce the problem or not. We are also trying to show alternative actions that possibly could bring better results.
Are we able to reduce NPS use at all? Is it possible to solve this problem when these substances are very much anchored in our societies?
With these questions in mind, we conducted almost 20 interviews with specialists in the field of drugs, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations, emergency services, NPS producers, and also with users and addicts themselves.
This film is the first part in a series of 4 films that comprehensively describe the situation with NPS in Poland. In the first film we focus on the historical beginnings of the appearance of these substances in our country, and on the the most popular ‘booster’ from the “speed” category – and one of the most commonly used NPS in general – mephedrone.
With this series of films we want to show what the situation looks like with New Psychoactive Substances in Poland from many different perspectives. Viewers will therefore be able to see the real scale of the problem and recognise what steps can be taken to really improve the situation. The situation is serious because about 300 people are hospitalised annually in Poland as a result of taking these substances. Some of them even lose their lives, and moreover they can also be a threat to other people, not only to themselves. We believe that an analysis of the ‘solutions’ used for over 10 years is particularly important, not only in Poland but also in other EU countries, for creating a rational drug policy.
Jan Szymański and Damian “Mestosław” Sobczyk, Polish Drug Policy Network