The popularity of Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) has been on the rise, especially among young people who are attracted to it as a "Legal High." As a derivative of the cannabis plant, like THC and CBD, there is limited scientific data on its potential health consequences. In response to this growing concern, the Austrian Ministry of Health has decided to include HHC in the regulation on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), leading to significant changes in the legal landscape surrounding HHC.
HHC: A New Psychoactive Substance in Austria
The Ministry of Health has announced that HHC will be included in the regulation on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). This means that the production and trade of synthetically produced HHC will be prohibited, while possession and consumption will remain legal. The new regulation comes into effect on Thursday.
Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) has stated that HHC will be classified as a New Psychoactive Substance until there is sufficient knowledge about its health consequences. Experts have repeatedly criticized the lack of research on HHC compared to THC and CBD.
Misconceptions Among Young People
The legality of HHC has led to the misconception among young people that it is safe and non-addictive, according to health psychologist Lisa Wessely from the addiction support association Dialog. There have also been cases where HHC has produced false-positive results in THC drug tests.
HHC extracted directly from the cannabis plant is already subject to the narcotics law. The products sold are usually synthetically extracted in the laboratory from THC or Cannabidiol (CBD) – unlike completely artificial cannabinoids, known as Spice.
European Response to HHC
Finland has already classified HHC as a new psychoactive substance, with Belgium and Hungary expected to follow suit soon. Other European countries are also discussing how to deal with synthetically produced HHC in the future.
THC: Austria's Most Popular Illegal Drug
This year, Vienna participated in the EU-wide wastewater drug study Score for the first time. The study revealed that the Austrian capital ranks in the middle in terms of cannabis consumption. Overall, the consumption of alcohol and drugs increased, as indicated by wastewater analyses from the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Medical University of Innsbruck (GMI), following the easing of COVID-19 measures.
Across Austria, per capita consumption of alcohol and nicotine remained relatively uniform. While THC is the most consumed illegal drug everywhere, its consumption is generally higher in urban areas.
The inclusion of HHC in the regulation on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) marks a significant change in Austria's approach to this increasingly popular substance. The new legal framework seeks to protect public health by restricting the production and trade of synthetically produced HHC, while possession and consumption remain legal.
As other European countries contemplate similar measures, it remains to be seen how these legal changes will impact the market for HHC and the overall landscape of psychoactive substances.