Synthetic highs are mutating

A new study on the chemicals in the latest batch of legally sold ‘synthetic highs’ has found what looks like an unintended hybrid drug.

As regular Mind Hacks readers will know, I’m a keen watcher of the murky ‘legal high’ market.

We seem to be in the unprecedented position where sophisticated grey-market pharmacologists are rapidly inventing completely new-to-science drugs in underground labs for thrill-seeking punters.

These synthetic drugs have typically come in two types: ‘fake pot’ – made from synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants, usually derived from cathinone.

A study just published in Forensic Science International looked at the chemicals in a new wave of ‘fake pot’ herbal highs sold over the internet.

Firstly, the research identified 12 new synthetic cannabinoids. That’s twelve completely new untested cannabis-like drugs. The turnover in the market is both stunning and scary.

Curiously though, one ‘legal pot’ sample contained both a new synthetic cannabinoid (identified as URB-754) and a cathinone (4-Me-MABP) in it.

What was most surprising though, was that these substances had chemically reacted with one another to create a completely new combination drug. It has the chemical name (N,5-dimethyl-N-(1-oxo-1-(p-tolyl)butan-2-yl)-2-(N′-(p-tolyl)ureido)benzamide) if you want to sound sexy.

In other words, while the makers intended to put both a cannabinoid and a stimulant in the same product, they probably never knew that the substances had chemically combined to produce a hybrid compound with completely unknown properties.

The legal high market is becoming an informal opt-in drug-testing experiment with paying subjects.
 

Link to locked study.

10 Comments

  1. christiankl
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    The legal high market is becoming an informal opt-in drug-testing experiment with paying subjects.

    If only we had better data reporting about what those substances do to those people…

    • Terry
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Such studies will take years and as the article says, the sheer number of new substances being released is overwhelming.

      It would be better, overall, to allow the regulated sale and consumption of the substances we do know about – which would then remove any incentive to continually invent new ones. This market only exists because of drug prohibition.

  2. Posted February 13, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    You find some more numbers & facts here:

    http://edge.org/response-detail/23727

  3. Posted February 13, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    > typically come in two types: ‘fake pot’….

    I think you missed out the second type. Too much fake pot? ;-)

    • matt
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      …typically come in two types: ‘fake pot’ – made from synthetic cannabinoids AND stimulants… get off the real pot. haha

    • Posted February 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Really? read that again. Not enough pot, too inattentive!

      “These synthetic drugs have typically come in two types: ‘fake pot’(1) – made from synthetic cannabinoids AND stimulants(2), usually derived from cathinone.”

      • quam
        Posted February 17, 2013 at 4:19 am | Permalink

        In Geoff’s defense, the sentence is punctuated inconsistently. Due to the dash after “fake pot,” I expected–and Geoff probably expected–to see a second dash following the name of the second type of synthetic drug. The sentence, as currently punctuated, implies that “fake pot” is made from both synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants, with the stimulants in turn being derived from cathinone.

      • Posted February 22, 2013 at 2:44 am | Permalink

        Ah, in which case the punctuation is very weird. It would have been clearer to stick to plain old commas, thus:

        These synthetic drugs have typically come in two types: ‘fake pot’, made from synthetic cannabinoids, and stimulants, usually derived from cathinone.

        Because of the lone m-dash, the original read to me as implying that fake pot is made from [a combination of] synthetic cannabinoids and cathinone-derived stimulants.

  4. Fred
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    More reason to stop this wasteful and stupid war on drugs.

    Drugs are like sex, people are going to do it. Are you going to try and fight human nature, or are you going to provide a safe play area?
    (you meaning in general)

  5. cmdrcarrot
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    @Geoff Capp

    The two types are “fake pot” and stimulants.


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