‘Legal highs’ may actually contain illegal drugs, according to a study just published in the medical journal QJM.
This new research provides a further insight into the foggy world of the ‘legal high’ industry, with particular reference to recent UK legislation which banned several previously ‘legal highs’ including a drug called mephedrone which was bizarrely dubbed ‘miaow miaow’ by the media.
The authors of the study bought several substances before and after the ban and sent them for lab testing to see whether the listed ingredients matched the advertised ingredients.
Surprisingly, they found on both occasions that the advertised ingredients of the ‘legal highs’ didn’t meet the active ingredients they discovered through chemical tests.
For example, before the ban, a legal pill sold as ‘Doves Original’ was advertised as containing a blend of amino acids and ketones but actually contained the psychedelic drugs mephedrone and butylone. Both were completely legal but were simply not mentioned by the manufacturers.
Interestingly, after the ban, it seems that several companies just changed their packaging without changing their ingredients.
Out of the six products tested, all advertised as being legal, five included recently banned substances – including mephedrone, 4-fluoromethcathinone and methylone – and the other contained dimethocaine, a legal but unmentioned local anaesthetic (presumably to emulate the nose-numbing effect of cocaine).
This makes an interesting contrast to a recent study on ‘legal high’ synthetic cannabinoids that we covered previously, where new unregulated substances appeared on the market before the ban came into place.
In the case of the UK legal stimulant market, however, it seems rather than innovating new substances to avoid the ban, the industry has simply resorted to mislabelling and deceptive advertising.
What this may suggest is that the synthetic cannabinoid industry is more scientifically savvy than the legal stimulant industry, not least because synthesising cannabinoids can’t be done as easily. But despite this, they seem to be more ‘agile’ when it comes to reacting to legal clamp downs.