The onslaught of different types of synthetic drugs in America and around the world has been extremely challenging for law enforcement to keep up with. Chemical compounds with various structures sold as anything from bath salts to plant food are often labeled as “not for human consumption” to try and skirt laws, but retail outlets are fully aware of their intent.
Officials have the tedious and long job of sifting through the ingredients used to make synthetic drugs and classifying them as illegal. This process can take years and without much satisfaction when the job is complete, because by this point the drug manufacturers have already changed the recipes. Capitalizing on this loophole, those creating and selling the substances are essentially able to push legal drugs that produce similar highs as other illegal drugs. Since these drugs are legal in many areas, they are also allowed to be sold in many stores. Children are then able to purchase drugs from their local convenience store – a practice that is harming many young people throughout the country.
The drugs are powerful concoctions and the user has no way of knowing how their body will react to the chemicals. In order to combat the growing synthetic drug problem and stay one step ahead of the manufacturers, new legislation is being passed in many states, such as the one recently introduced in Iowa. This new bill would allow law enforcement to take synthetic drugs off the shelves if they are found to be mis-advertised or if the packages are misrepresenting the substances.
Sidestepping the lengthy process of making the components of the drug illegal and going directly for eliminating the products off the shelves of stores keeps the drugs away from many people who could otherwise become addicted to, get sick from or even die after consuming these synthetic drugs.
A team of researchers in Italy have come up with a machine that is able to detect methamphetamine. More importantly, this machine can detect many different types of methamphetamine, not just one recipe. Law enforcement in the United States are anxious to employ this device in high traffic areas around the country to help combat the methamphetamine problem many states are fighting.
The machine works by identifying the main molecule in methamphetamine that is common no matter what recipe is used. When the machine detects the molecule it alerts the operator. Scientists and law enforcement agencies are hoping they can use this new invention to detect other designer drugs as well in the near future. These synthetic drugs pose a problem for authorities because creators of the compounds simply change one or two molecules in the structure to make the drug legal again and therefore harder for authorities to trace. By employing this machine, police all over the country would have a jump start on the creators of these harmful drugs.
Now that drug dealers are transporting methamphetamine in liquid form, the machine was developed to be able to detect the drug within water. This is key in locating drugs that are being smuggled from countries like Mexico into the United States because of the frequency that they are transported in liquid form.
The next challenge that the team of researchers will attempt to overcome is detecting methamphetamine in wastewater. This proves to be much more difficult task. Dermot Diamond, director of the National Centre for Sensor Research in Ireland, cautions that “detecting illicit drugs and their residues in wastewater is a very challenging proposition for a sensing device of the type they have produced. This is because the complexity of the same, and the range of potential interferents, goes way beyond what the authors have tested.”
Despite the challenging nature of detecting drugs like methamphetamine in wastewater, the team seems up to the task and will continue their research in that direction.
Several years ago emergency responders and law enforcement started noticing people were exhibiting signs of a drug that the experts had never seen before. These patients were not testing positive for heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or alcohol. Investigators soon realized that they were witnessing the effects of bath salts.
Bath salts are a synthetic drug that produces a high similar to cocaine or methamphetamine, with some auditory and visual hallucinations as well. The drug does not show up on a drug test and is made combining different chemicals. Manufacturers of the drug would continuously alter the recipe so drug tests could not be developed to test for the bath salts. This also made selling them in places like gas stations and head shops ok, because the ingredients were constantly modified to be legally acceptable.
Investigators began to realize they needed to find the source of the bath salts. They were called to a lady’s house because of reports of her screaming and shooting her gun into the sky. Upon arrival, it was very clear that she was under the influence of something. Police came across a bag with a white powder and a name of a company.
The company was called, China Enriching Chemistry, it was owned by Eric Chang. The company was producing a drug called mephedrone, which was the main component in some types of synthetic drugs. Based out of China, Chang was supplying drugs all over the United States and Europe. He was taking individual orders and sending the drug right to the person’s home. He even went so far as to commit to re-sending the package in the event it got intercepted by authorities.
Chang’s factory was responsible for feeding the addictions of thousands of people in the United States and across Europe. There are also reports that he began producing ecstasy for clients as well. While the United States does not have the ability to extradite Chang for manufacturing and selling illegal drugs, they did alert authorities in China.
Chang is currently serving time in a Chinese prison. His factory has stopped producing illegal drugs. Investigators have noticed a decline in the amount of bath salts cases and attribute this to Chang’s incarceration.
Synthetic drugs often call bath salts made worldwide headlines in recent years due to bizarre and even horrific behavior of individuals reported to be under the influence of these chemicals. A study from scientists at The Scripps Research Institute set out to examine how addictive these substances are.
In addition to the name bath salts, these drugs have also been marketed as plant food and other products with labels saying they’re not for human consumption. Lawmakers in the UK and the US have banned the substances altogether. The drugs are derived from cathinone, which is a drug that was synthesized from an African plant leaf called khat.
The recent Scripps study involved giving lab rats doses of bath salts and doses of methamphetamine via intravenous injection after pushing on levers to self-administer it. If found that the rats would wind up pushing the levers ten times more on average to receive a single dose of bath salts compared to methamphetamine.
The findings are published in the August 2013 issue of the journal Neuropharmacology. These results point to potentially an ongoing severe risk of these class of drugs, as chemists seek to synthesize other forms of the drug, which is otherwise known as MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone).
If you or someone you love is having a problem with any type of drugs, contact Addiction Treatment Services for a free consultation on finding solutions for substance abuse issues.
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