Pharmacist/Researcher , Sciensano , SCANNER and Belgian Early Warning System (BEWSD)
Margot Balcaen, Project Coordinator of Scanner, the European Project looking into understanding the dynamics and consequences of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in a rapidly changing online market. Also active as an expert on Illegal Drugs for the Belgian Early Warning System on Drugs (BEWSD). Our main focus is monitoring the drug situation in Belgium and reporting on a national and international level. This is to build, maintain, and strengthen situational awareness, and preparedness toward emerging drug trends. In 2020 I have obtained my master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences. In my spare time, I am part of the board of directors of a student festival in Ghent.
Increasing amounts of new psychoactive substances (NPS) have been identified in Europe. This type of drugs is chemically and toxicologically similar to classic illicit drugs but evades legislation by structural alterations. For example isotonitazene is a potent NPS opioid and first member of the benzimidazole class of compounds to be available online. There is however little information available regarding these substances, for example, the consumption and user patterns. At the moment the analysis is also difficult, because of the lack of reference material. Looking into manners to help dealing with challenges posed by NPS phenomena and identify new harm reduction opportunities is also an important goal of the project. The SCANNER-project focuses on understanding all the dynamics and consequences of new psychoactive substance use in a rapidly changing (online) drug market). In order to do this it has set up different deliverables to achieve these objectives and harmonizes drug checking operating procedures and other harm reduction initiatives throughout Europe.