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How Chemistry Stymies Attempts To Regulate Synthetic Drugs 364

Posted by timothy
from the welcome-to-the-drug-war-here's-your-scorecard dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Brandon Keim reports that the war on drugs has a new front, with chemists fabricating synthetic mimics of marijuana, dissociative drugs and stimulants. So far lawmakers appear to be a losing the war, as every time a new compound is banned, overseas chemists synthesize a new version tweaked just enough to evade the letter of the law in a giant game of chemical Whack-a-Mole. 'Manufacturers turn these things around so quickly. One week you'll have a product with compound X, the next week it's compound Y,' says forensic toxicologist Kevin Shanks. 'It's fascinating how fast it can occur, and it's fascinating to see the minute changes in chemical structure they'll come up with. It's similar, but it's different.' During the last several years, the market for legal highs has exploded in North America and Europe. While people raised on Reefer Madness-style exaggerations may be wary of claims that 'legal high' drugs are dangerous, researchers say they're far more potent than the originals. Reports of psychotic episodes following synthetic drug use are common and have led to a variety of laws, but so far the bans aren't working, as the drugs can be subtly tweaked so as to possess a different, legal molecular form. One obvious alternative approach is to ban entire classes of similar compounds; however this is easier said than done. 'The problem with that is, what does "chemically similar" really mean? Change the structure in a small way — move a molecule here, move something to the other side of the molecule — and while I might think it's an analogue, another chemist might disagree,' says Shanks. 'That's the crux of the entire problem. The scientific community does not agree on what "analogue" essentially means.""
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How Chemistry Stymies Attempts To Regulate Synthetic Drugs

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  • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:40AM (#40200603)

    Doesn't every chemical have to go through thorough tests before deemed safe for human consumption?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Of course not. We've injested billions of different molecules from nature since the dawn of time, and until very recently we haven't had the scientific know-how to test them.

    • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:49AM (#40200653)

      Not if the chemical isn't marketed as being meant for human consumption, obviously...

      The synthetic weed that they're selling at headshops and shit nowadays is sold as incense, some of them are sold as bath salts. They say right on the side "not safe for human consumption", but then again, so do cans of spray paint and duster and there are thousands of people out there huffing that shit.

      Just more stupidity all because the government refuses to legalize a plant that grows wild all over the damn world.

      • by khipu (2511498) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:10AM (#40200783)

        but then again, so do cans of spray paint and duster and there are thousands of people out there huffing that shit.

        Kittens don't come with warnings. Does that mean they are safe to huff?

        http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Kitten_huffing [wikia.com]

      • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:17AM (#40200807)

        Just more stupidity all because the government refuses to legalize a plant that grows wild all over the damn world.

        If the government legalized it and even limited to purchase in gov only stores, they could at least kill off most of the issues related to the drug trade, in one fell swoop removing pushers, drug runners, mules, and cartels. Granted, at this point they'd also have to sell cocaine, LSD, ecstasy and heroin for less than street value, but that's purely attributable to the stubbornness of the "war on drug" folks who've now created this entire underworld subculture. Apparently those "war on drugs" people were incapable of learning from history and what occurred the last time they declared "war" on a common and highly desired item (prohibition). At least they seem to have learned their lesson with tobacco.

        • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:51AM (#40201001) Homepage

          Not necessarily...
          The black market drugs would need to be significantly cheaper than the over the counter stuff, or it simply wouldn't be worth the risk (of police, of poor quality product, of being ripped off by an unregulated seller etc) for the purchaser... And if the profit margins are slim enough it wouldn't be worth it for the seller.

          With legal production, you have efficiencies through economies of scale as well as savings through being able to ship via official channels and not needing to smuggle etc, so you could easily undercut the black market on price and still turn a tidy profit.

          Legalizing drugs would destroy the business of those in the illegal drug trade over night, save the police millions and allow the government keep track of who is buying what drugs.

          • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:58AM (#40201043)

            Yep, it would put cartels and the mafia out of business overnight, leading to less crime and a marked improvement in living conditions and health for everyone, which is why its unlikely to ever happen. Politicians know its good to have a boogeyman in your back pocket to scare the electorate, like wartime presidents never losing office. Law enforcement knows their budgets would be slashed without much crime, and the increasingly paramilitary tactics they are adopting would become unneccessary. In short, those in power would lose control.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward
              Don't forget the for-profit prisons. They have a vested interest in high crime and recidivism rates. Also I recently found out that they make prison population projections from third grade reading skills, so the for-profit prison industry also has a vested interest in harming education. That there is such a thing as a for-profit industry is a clear sign of a sick society.
            • by bitt3n (941736) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @03:22PM (#40202827)

              Yep, it would put cartels and the mafia out of business overnight, leading to less crime and a marked improvement in living conditions and health for everyone, which is why its unlikely to ever happen. Politicians know its good to have a boogeyman in your back pocket to scare the electorate, like wartime presidents never losing office. Law enforcement knows their budgets would be slashed without much crime, and the increasingly paramilitary tactics they are adopting would become unneccessary. In short, those in power would lose control.

              well what we could do is legalize drugs, but then illegalize something else, so that the cartels still have a business. For example, what if we made truck nuts illegal? We could have truck nuts being peddled on street corners, colombian truck-nut smugglers smuggling truck nuts from illegal jungle truck-nut laboratories, and truck-nut kingpins bribing truck-nut police to take out rival truck-nut gangs. To get around the problem of people wanting to put truck nuts on their trucks (capital offense), you could have brown bag laws, where the cops couldn't pull you over unless they could actually see the truck nuts.

            • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @06:12PM (#40204029)

              Yep, it would put cartels and the mafia out of business overnight, leading to less crime and a marked improvement in living conditions and health for everyone,

              No it wouldn't. You kill the drug market but leave the players behind, you end up with a ton of violent criminals looking for new profitable crimes to commit. That's what happened with prohibition - it basically created organized crime in the US and once liquor was relegalized they didn't just get regular 9-5 jobs, they branched out.

              If drugs are legalized in the US, we should be prepapred for the violence to get worse before it gets better.

          • by dave420 (699308)
            A legal operation would have as close to 0% shrinkage as possible, compared to an illegal operation which would have to factor in seizures of product and equipment, the loss of employees, and raids on premises in the price of their product.
        • by JimCanuck (2474366) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:03PM (#40201441)

          If the government legalized it and even limited to purchase in gov only stores, they could at least kill off most of the issues related to the drug trade

          In Ontario, they have put so much sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, that our prices for them reach 2-3 times more then the US and other Provinces near us who do not tax the hell out of them.

          While there are no criminal gangs actively distributing black market alcohol and tobacco, there is however a rather large black market for Native tobacco products that do not get taxed this way, and home distilled alcoholic beverages. As well as the importing of tobacco and alcohol products from places where these sin taxes do not exist.

          Making something legal and then regulating it to death just invites more illegal distribution of the products in question.

          • by TheRealGrogan (1660825) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @04:11PM (#40203191)

            As opposed to what... keeping things the way they are now, introducing mandatory minimum sentences for growing a fucking plant, raising the stakes and increasing the profits for illegal growers and distributors, while doing even more harm to society? Quality and product safety will also regress and cause more harm.

            There is a breaking point with taxation and control of substances. Don't cross it. Yes, they made that mistake with tobacco in the early 90's in Ontario. Everyone and their dog was selling contraband cigarettes, including people's brands of choice too. There was at least one person, if not more, in every work place. They gave in, reduced the taxes so that smokes were back down to less than $3 a pack and the contraband stopped immediately. (People were stuck with cartons of these cigarettes) Then, of course, the anti tobacco lobbyists keep running their mouths and the price crept up again and now they have this new problem that they can't combat. It's very difficult to enforce because of the loopholes that the native people have.

            There is still some control though, you still don't have random assholes and criminal gangs growing tobacco and selling bags of it and getting violent over it. If they made tobacco illegal like cannabis there certainly would be more trouble.

        • by ks*nut (985334) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:40PM (#40201693)
          There are lots of people getting rich because of ludicrous drug laws in this country. How do you think the CIA finances its nefarious adventures? They'll keep the war going in Afghanistan going just long enough to tidy up the fortunes they're making on the opium trade and then shift their attentions elsewhere. Thousands of lives are shattered each year through the use of a legalized drug - alcohol, yes, damnit, it's a drug and we're still throwing people into jail because they're smoking a weed that turns into a flower in their minds. Stupid country.
          • correction, stupid WORLD.

            you think its a US problem that governments have 'agreed' to ban pot? last I checked, almost every single country is onboard this stupid WoD.

            *not* just the US. its a false morality problem; but mostly there is MONEY to be made by governments, in various ways, by keeping things illegal.

            counter-intuitive but its actually true.

            then again, the US has a very high population of religious sheep and those are the perfect 'voters' to keep the status quo going. brainwashed believers are a

            • you think its a US problem that governments have 'agreed' to ban pot? last I checked, almost every single country is onboard this stupid WoD.

              The US is the main culprit. We have a lot of influence in world politics, and we use it to force other countries into alignment with our drug policy.

    • by dietdew7 (1171613) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:50AM (#40200661)
      I don't think these drugs are purchased from a pharmacy.
    • by Savantissimo (893682) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:30AM (#40200883) Journal

      "Doesn't every chemical have to go through thorough tests before deemed safe for human consumption?"

      No, because we used to be a free country where everything was considered legal until proven otherwise. Back in the early 20th century, it took a constitutional amendment to ban a substance. It was understood that that was not within Congress' powers to do so otherwise, which gave rise to all sorts of dodges such as calling the ban an "excise tax", with outrageously high duties.

      We have slid down the slippery slope to the point that agencies such as the BATF, DEA and FDA can ban substances by totally discretionary administrative action - and anyone with molecules vaguely similar can have all property seized, be prevented from making any effective legal defense and sentenced under draconian mandatory minimums to decades in prison. But they still like to pretend that they are still exercising their authority with some authentic legal basis, so they'll do a bit of hand-wringing while actually prosecuting anyone with any potentially mind-altering material, or "precursors" or even just for possessing glassware without license from our masters.

      I say they never had the authority to ban anything, nor to even tax anything to a level that would remove it from regular commerce.
      When they try to use their power to do so, they are acting outside their delegated auhtority ultra vires, they have lost their immunity, and so are entitled to even less deference than any other band of armed thugs that invades homes, steals property and kidnaps, terrorizes and kills citizens.

  • Legalize it all. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karmashock (2415832) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:41AM (#40200609)

    All of it.

    Some junkies will kill themselves... but that will taper off quickly. Some kill themselves. Some don't. Some never touch the stuff. If people want to destroy themselves... let them.

    • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:49AM (#40200655)

      You've prompted my first ever Slashdot comment.

      The problem is that people using this stuff are killing innocents. Look at the Florida cannibal (repotedly on bath salts) and the guy a mile from my house in Farmington Hills, MI who killed his adoptive father and beat his adoptive mother & brother to within an inch of their lives on K2/Spice.

      By the way, it hurts a lot of people a lot when a user ODs. A lot more than I thought it would.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:59AM (#40200717)
        Same reason should be used to ban alcohol,cigarettes and fossil fuels then
        • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:48AM (#40200983)

          I don't think anyone has ever eaten some guy's face after smoking a cigarette or filling up their car with gas, so no... the same reason shouldn't be used to ban cigarettes and fossil fuels.

          There are rational arguments for why you might want to ban either (and arguments for why you shouldn't), but the one you're presenting here makes no sense whatsoever.

          • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:03AM (#40201063)

            I don't think anyone has ever eaten some guy's face after smoking a cigarette

            Has someone eaten some guy's face after using marijuana? What kind of non sequitur are you pushing here?

            The truth is that plenty of people die because of tobacco. Children get asthma because of tobacco. Second hand tobacco smoke can cause cancer. Tobacco smoke is far more dangerous than marijuana smoke (yes, really -- marijuana smoke does contain carcinogens, but even heavy marijuana smokers do not show an increased risk of cancer).

            or filling up their car with gas

            Cars kill tens of thousands of people per year, and I can assure you that people's faces have been torn off by cars.

            The fact of the matter is that the war on drugs has nothing to do with public safety. Making methamphetamine illegal for recreational use (it is certainly legal by prescription) has actually created a much greater risk to the general public: illegal methamphetamine production. I have never seen a crazed methamphetamine user (I am sure they exist, I have just never seen one), but I have seen a house burn to the ground after the byproducts of methamphetamine production caught fire. Mobile production facilities create major chemical hazards on the sides of highways. I would rather have a legal, regulated chemical plant producing methamphetamine for people to buy over the counter than the system we have today.

            • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Interesting)

              by jittles (1613415) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:14AM (#40201151)

              I have never seen a crazed methamphetamine user (I am sure they exist, I have just never seen one), but I have seen a house burn to the ground after the byproducts of methamphetamine production caught fire.

              I had a roommate in college who used to be a very heavy meth user. He quit because he started becoming very paranoid and was beginning to hallucinate. It got to the point where he literally thought everyone was out to kill him, and he was afraid that he was going to have to start killing people to save his life. I'm not sure how he realized it was the drugs, or how he managed to stop, but I would be very willing to bet that he was quite dangerous during that time.

              • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:29AM (#40201231)
                So your point is what...that someone who noticed that his life was becoming terrifying as a result of his drug use was able to stop using that drug? Your roommate did not kill anyone, and he certainly did not create a hazard waste site on the side of a busy highway.

                Sure, methamphetamine can create paranoid delusions in its users. Do the people who sell it for recreational use take the time to explain that to their customers? If you could buy methamphetamine legally, you could be given a warning about the danger of using it -- just like we warn people about the dangers of using alcohol and tobacco.

                Note that the methamphetamine that is sold legally, the kind you need a prescription to buy, comes with warnings. It is also produced in a much safer, and much better controlled, manner. You do not have to worry that pharmaceutical methamphetamine is laced with hazardous residual chemicals, a common and serious problem with illegal methamphetamine. It is unusual for a pharmaceutical production facility to burst into flames; it is common for an illegal production facility to explode.

                People are going to use methamphetamine recreationally, and we need to accept that as a fact of life. The issue we need to address is the health and safety of the public, both those who use methamphetamine and those who do not. Banning the drug has increased the risk to public health; we can do better.
                • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @05:03PM (#40203573)
                  I remember seeing a story in the UK news recently: Some guy had taken a 'legal high' so called ecstasy substitute, and died from it. His parents were out for blood. Their position was that if the government was more aggressive in prohibiting new recreational drugs their son would still be alive. Even disregarding all the completely obvious flaws in their argument (mainly the impossibility of regulating these substances as discussed in the OP), it was a massive facepalm moment for me. I felt like grabbing them by the collar and shaking them and saying "If ecstasy were legal he would still be alive".

                  I have taken a few untested analogues myself, only after extensive research. Personally I thoroughly recommend tryptamine analogues especially 5-methoxy Di-isopropyl Tryptamine, that stuff is the bees knees. But the fact remains, lsd, ecstasy and marijuana are relatively safe, there are some deaths from ecstasy, maybe one or two from lsd, and exactly 0 from marijuana. Experimental analogues on the other hand are dangerous. Yes I know that the war on drugs is not there to prevent user harm, but I want everyone else to know that too and start asking why we don't start reducing that harm.
              • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @12:06PM (#40201469)

                I have never seen a crazed methamphetamine user (I am sure they exist, I have just never seen one), but I have seen a house burn to the ground after the byproducts of methamphetamine production caught fire.

                I had a roommate in college who used to be a very heavy meth user. He quit because he started becoming very paranoid and was beginning to hallucinate. It got to the point where he literally thought everyone was out to kill him, and he was afraid that he was going to have to start killing people to save his life. I'm not sure how he realized it was the drugs, or how he managed to stop, but I would be very willing to bet that he was quite dangerous during that time.

                I used to use Meth, it doesn't make you trip. What makes you trip is staying awake for up to two weeks without sleeping, which is what the Meth allows you to do. I saw one chick go for nearly a month with less than an hour of sleep a week. After 3 or 4 days you start hallucinating from the sleep deprivation. Keep that up for long enough and you'll seriously fuck your program upstairs and need an ICU to sober up.
                I quit because it was rotting my teeth and I realized I was turning into a piece of shit. Put it down, walked away. Had jitters for a few days, trouble sleeping for a few months, and that was it. I smoke some weed now and then still, and sometimes have a few beers, but that's the extent of my partying these days.

                Most of the people who get really wacked out on Meth are actually using what we called "Crank". It's basically a bath-tub version of Meth, but what you end up with chemically speaking is a little different. Or a lot different depending on who did the cooking and what they used. It's just another example of people turning to the strange and exotic when you take away the common and familiar.

                As for dangerous, well I'll have to throw this at you:
                ""Dangerous!" cried Gandalf. "And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord. And Aragorn is dangerous, and Legolas is dangerous. You are beset with dangers, Gimli son of Gloin; for you are dangerous yourself, in your own fashion. Certainly the forest of Fangorn is perilous - not least to those that are too ready with their axes; and Fangorn himself, he is perilous too; yet he is wise and kindly nonetheless."

          • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:09AM (#40201109) Homepage Journal

            You can add up every single murder and suicide committed under the influence of illegal drugs, every death by overdose, every death due to organ failure caused by years of addiction ... and you still won't come close to the number of deaths and the amount of damage caused by the "War on Drugs" rather than the drugs themselves. If you don't think the argument makes sense, that's your problem for not paying attention.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)

            I don't think anyone has ever eaten some guy's face after smoking a cigarette or filling up their car with gas, so no... the same reason shouldn't be used to ban cigarettes and fossil fuels.

            There are rational arguments for why you might want to ban either (and arguments for why you shouldn't), but the one you're presenting here makes no sense whatsoever.

            A very small minority of these actions tho.

            I mean, in human history, there have been many more incidents of egregious acts by humans to other humans...

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by stochos (2653883)

            I don't think anyone has ever eaten some guy's face after smoking a cigarette or filling up their car with gas, so no... the same reason shouldn't be used to ban cigarettes and fossil fuels.

            There are rational arguments for why you might want to ban either (and arguments for why you shouldn't), but the one you're presenting here makes no sense whatsoever.

            The only evidence that the face-eating zombie guy was on bath salts is speculation by a police officer, who was previously quoted in the Miami Herald as saying that the cause of the attack was "cocaine" and "a new form of LSD" time.com [time.com]. They're just pulling it out of their rear ends to fit an anti-drug agenda. In fact, no drugs were found on the suspect, and no toxicology reports have been released proving he was on ANY drugs. The other high-profile murder attributed to bath salts was the murder of a New

      • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:05AM (#40200753)

        If only there existed relatively safe plant [wikipedia.org] that people could smoke instead and not turn into fucking flesh-eating zombies after use...

        Oh well, I'm sure Big Pharma will come up with something to combat these cravings at a very reasonable price per dose, because Big Pharma cares...

        • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:53AM (#40201013)

          So I tried THC for the first time in my life last week a few weeks leading up to my 30th. (To go along with my "Try everything once" mantra since I was raised a very picky eater having never tried some vegetables before 25).

          I have asthma so can't smoke, but I found some interesting recipes online. Ended up making gee and then using that in a ton of stuff. Toast, brownies, cookies, spaghetti, etc.
          --

          Holy fark have I (we) been lied to. Jesus Christ, that's illegal? I want to go back and cock punch every single cop and DARE presenter I ever had. Alcohol has much more serious side effects than that. I had way too much my first time not knowing the limits and I didn't black out or go try to pick fights (as too much Jim and Jack tend to do). I just felt like I was getting heavier and sinking into the couch. It was the worst parts of being drunk (uncoordinated, couldn't talk right, blurry vision) without the blackout to forget it. Subsequent dosages were much better. (And I re-watched the Avengers a 2nd time and that was interesting to say the least).

          I already believed that everything should be decriminalized/legalized (Like how Portugal does it) and that was just because of my observations on society. There is absofarkinglutely no reason pot should be illegal let alone a schedule 1.

          The WORST possible side effect is that we all turn into the British and queue for everything. If you've seen the episode of How I Met Your Mother where they get in line and time feels like it's gone by for ever, that's pretty much it.

          Oh, and it took away (or at least made me ignore) my chronic knee pain. I mean. If you have the means to try it and haven't and you already don't see a problem with alcohol, my suggestion is try it. You will be equally as "WTF".

          Anonymous because.

          • by kestasjk (933987) *
            I am "absofarkinglutely" "equally as WTF".

            Marijuana. Not even once.
          • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Informative)

            by ewieling (90662) <eric&fnords,org> on Sunday June 03, 2012 @01:44PM (#40202145)

            So I tried THC for the first time in my life last week a few weeks leading up to my 30th. (To go along with my "Try everything once" mantra since I was raised a very picky eater having never tried some vegetables before 25).

            Holy fark have I (we) been lied to. Jesus Christ, that's illegal? I want to go back and cock punch every single cop and DARE presenter I ever had.

            This War on (some) Drugs undermines people's faith in our government. Once someone realizes they were lied to about marijuana they start to wonder what other lies they were told. It is easy to think the the government lies about stuff, but seldom do people have direct experience proving it. You have now had one of those experiences.

        • While I certainly agree that weed should be legal, let's not forget that hundreds of thousands of people ingest these other chemicals every day, yet only one guy went around eating a guys face. I think we can reasonably conclude that there is no causal relationship between the two.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:09AM (#40200777)

        I've no experience of "bath salts" (besides actual bath salts) but I'd take reports that it contributed significantly the the cannibal's antics with a pinch of salt.

        I'm probably being too cynical, but it sounds more like a newspaper going for moral outrage. It's also interesting that you mention Spice, which I have tried myself; it's meant to be a legal version of pot, and that tends to dampen violent tendencies rather than amplify them. The guy you mention may well have been smoking the stuff before the assault on his adoptive family but I'm very skeptical that one led to the other, but of course the papers will take this as a cue to stir up a campaign to ban it.

        • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:14AM (#40201147) Homepage Journal
          The "blizzard" bath salts are not like anything that can be described. I have never taken the stuff myself, however, being in the psych ward over many occasions, these bath salts are the purpose of MORE THAN HALF of the people there.

          The situation comes from people using this stuff like cocaine. The first initial buzz is very much like cocaine. But unlike cocaine, you don't do a line every 5 or 10 minutes, because the bath salts have a half-life of possibly from 8 hours to DAYS. After enough consumption, you WILL have a psychotic episode ranging anywhere from schizo tendencies to what you can classically attribute to PCP.

          The doctor, Amy Metzger, who is usually the doctor on said psych ward has written a paper about its effects http://altoonaregional.org/news_archived2011.htm#06-03-11d [altoonaregional.org]
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        You've prompted my first ever Slashdot comment.

        The problem is that people using this stuff are killing innocents. Look at the Florida cannibal (repotedly on bath salts) and the guy a mile from my house in Farmington Hills, MI who killed his adoptive father and beat his adoptive mother & brother to within an inch of their lives on K2/Spice.

        By the way, it hurts a lot of people a lot when a user ODs. A lot more than I thought it would.

        Except you forgot things like this [huffingtonpost.com], which totally refute your small area claims of increased crime.

        Just because 10 crimes out of 1,000 people happens does not mean you have an increase in problems. It just means you are falling into the media's fascination with only reporting bad things.

        Decriminalize/Legalize all but the most harmful and that may be a step in the right direction. Or simply take the exact approach Portugal took.

        However, this being /. and all, I do not fully expect you to actually re

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's a good thing they're under prohibition then so things like that don't happen anymore.

      • by khallow (566160) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:34AM (#40200903)

        The problem is that people using this stuff are killing innocents.

        So is the war on drugs. It's killing roughly 10,000 people a year across the border in Mexico (which in itself is almost as numerous as are killed by drunk drivers, the most common case of innocents killed by drug users. It's killing people who are imprisoned for using drugs (there are hundreds of thousands if people jailed each year in an unhealthy environment, do the math). It's killing people due to increased government power and reduced freedom. It's killing people due to a massive misallocation of society's resources.

        By the way, it hurts a lot of people a lot when a user ODs. A lot more than I thought it would.

        How about when that user spends a few years in jail? I bet that hurts a lot of people too.

      • Propoganda (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:36AM (#40200923) Homepage
        I've got news for you. If the guy beat his adoptive mother and brother to within an inch of their lives on K2, then they should thank their lucky stars he was on K2, or they would be dead right now.*.

        Disclaimer:I've actually tried K2 and know what I'm talking about.

        Perhaps you were unaware of this, but when the government wants to make something illegal, they are often not truthful. Furthermore, correlation doesn't equal causation. If one smokes a joint and then goes and kills someone, they didn't kill someone because they smoked a joint; they killed someone because they are a murderous person.
      • Most (all) of the problems you list are from poor quality control. If you're smoking/injecting the drug equivalent of mystery meat you've got to expect some strange side effects.
      • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:02AM (#40201057) Homepage

        Bath salts are a legal substance being abused...

        Do you think people would resort to taking bath salts if marijuana and other such drugs were available legally? As the article points out, as more substances are made illegal they are creating ever more dangerous substances in order to achieve similar highs. This wouldn't have happened if drugs were legal, if anything research would have been performed to create safer versions.

        Also if drugs are sold legally, you can better keep track of who is taking them...

        And people kill innocents all the time, wether on illegal drugs, legal drugs like alcohol or prescribed medicine from a doctor, or on no drugs whatsoever... Just because someone had taken bath salts at the time he tried to kill and eat someone, doesn't mean the bath salts had any influence over his decision to commit such an act.

      • by sjames (1099) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @01:15PM (#40201953) Homepage

        And the only reason the 'bath salts' even exist is that the far more desirable cannabis is illegal.The longer cannabis is illegal, the more crazy dangerous legal substitutes will be made. Had cannabis been legal, the guy would have been way too busy trying to carve a walnut into a pipe to eat anyone's face.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        If other drugs were legal, this 'cannibal' wouldn't be taking the synthetic stuff.

        The only way that one drug leads to somebody taking another drug (gateway) is because the client already had to approach a pusher rather than going to a store to get some pot or blow or crack or other similar known substance.

    • Junkies who never touch the stuff? That sounds like a pretty complicated achievement.
    • by gstrickler (920733) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:18AM (#40200813)

      Precisely. Prohibition didn't work in the 1920's, it just made drinking more dangerous and added to the crime rate and violence. The "war on drugs" is simply prohibition revisited. Stop trying to make prohibition work, it will never work. Legalize it, tax it, and regulate it, just like we do with alcohol and tobacco.

      There may be a few drugs that are too dangerous and need to be restricted, but if the majority of them are available, the demand for the most dangerous ones will drop dramatically, whether they're legal or not.

    • Re:Legalize it all. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:47AM (#40200973)

      And spend the money on rehab and not punishment. Look at Portugal as an example. And keeping drugs illegal is costing tax payers a TON of money. My GF works in the ER. She's had a patient in and out with sepsis and other serious infections that he got from a needle. Give or take they estimate that the it's cost the hospital "$1M" (in hospital money). Between sedation, partial amputation of a limb, etc. It would have cost the government pennies for a clean needle and some clean, medical grade heroin. And then force him into a treatment program instead of locking him up and making me pay for it.

  • by wwwrench (464274) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:43AM (#40200615) Homepage
    What this means is that the drugs which are legal, are potentially more dangerous than the ones which are banned. Marijuana, mushrooms, LSD have been around long enough that they've been well studied, and we know the risks are minimal. But the latest synthesised version of them has not been studied, and might be dangerous. When will we learn that the war on drugs is just making things worse?
    • by garcia (6573)

      When business and public safety unions cannot lobby politicians and they will be prosecuted, by death or indefinite jail terms not funded by taxpayers, for doing so.

    • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:02AM (#40200735)

      All one has to do is look at the US drug schedules [wikipedia.org] to realize that they have no realistic basis.

      I mean, THC is ranked as having a higher abuse potential and danger than cocaine. Psilocybin is ranked higher than amphetamines. Peyote is ranked higher than opiates.

      I'm sure it's just coincidental that all the intoxicating substances that grow wild with little human intervention, that have been used spiritually and medicinally for tens of thousands of years, are rated as being "more dangerous" than the opiates that make up the bulk of the pharmaceuticals in use around the world today. It's not like the companies selling the legal recreational drugs like alcohol and tobacco are putting money into keeping these things scheduled in this unrealistic way or anything. [wikipedia.org] Oh, wait...

      • by khipu (2511498) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:13AM (#40200795)

        Opiates also grow naturally and have also been used medically for thousands of years.

      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:36AM (#40200919)

        I mean, THC is ranked as having a higher abuse potential and danger than cocaine.

        This is not 100% accurate; Schedule II drugs are supposedly drugs with a high potential for abuse, but which have legitimate medical uses; Schedule I are those with a high potential for abuse, but no legitimate medical uses. Cocaine has use as an anesthetic, and amphetamines have use in treating narcolepsy, ADD, and obesity.

        The problem with these schedules, of course, is that things become political hotbuttons. Law enforcement officers want to be able to arrest anyone who possesses marijuana, without having to listen to a story about having a prescription; they view placing marijuana in Schedule II as conceding defeat. MDMA was put in Schedule I despite legitimate medical uses as well, because cops wanted to crack down on hippies, punk rockers, and other subcultures. The war on drugs is more about increasing and maintaining police power than about public health.

  • by JamesP (688957) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:47AM (#40200637)

    Let's ban synthetic drugs while the tradicional/crime financing drugs are still around

    Let's make more difficult for people to have their nicotin fix in a less harmful way by banning all 'less harmful' alternatives.

    The drug traffickers and tobacco companies are grateful for your cooperation.

  • by Chemisor (97276) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @09:50AM (#40200671)

    And they say there is no innovation in America...

  • If the pharmaceutical industry had not moved so much of it's research off shore, the industry would be doing much better, vast hordes of US and European chemists would not be out of work and if someone made this kind of stuff, we could just arrest them. No need to involve Interpol or whoever that international police force is.
  • by NCatron (103418) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:32AM (#40200895)

    Working in drug discovery, I'm still amazed at how often a small change of sometimes even a single atom of a molecule can take an pharmacologically active molecule and make it near-worthless - or even worse take a (relatively) safe molecule and turn it unacceptably toxic. I'd stay FAR away from any "analogue" being created with the sole purpose of rounding a ban without having any sort of safety and probably minimal efficacy testing.

    I'd say this kind of story gives even stronger evidence for why illicit drugs (the less-toxic at least) should be legalized & controlled - if this article is not overly sensational and there really is an escalating war of chemistry we could get into some pretty nasty stuff being marketed to consumers who do not know any better.

  • Canada (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In Canada, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act bans "Cannabis, its preparations, derivatives and similar synthetic preparations".

    http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-38.8/page-24.html#h-27 [justice.gc.ca]

  • 'That's the crux of the entire problem. The scientific community does not agree on what "analogue" essentially means.""

    The crux of the problem is our crazy war on drugs. The fact that a person cannot smoke a joint at home legally, but can drive to the bar, get hammered, get in an assaultive fight, then drive home drunk possibly killing people is simply ridiculous.

    Instead of allowing a real market, with the safest possible standards, we have a black market with adulterated crap, and chemical 'analogues' with unknown long term effects.

    Instead of simple stores and methods of purchase, we have gang wars, and prisons filled

  • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:41AM (#40200949)

    ...religion hates spiritual experience and even simple pleasure it doesn't ration.

    Note the level of Bible Thumper influence which not only drove Prohibition, but anti-"narcotics" (cannabis is not one) laws in the same era.

    Taliban must control sex and control other pleasures, and to accomplish that goal must define disobedience as "sin" then punish it.

    The cost of WOSD is spectacular, and it fuels the wave of immigration from the narco-states it creates (though the Christian Taliban are completely incapable of connecting the disruption of civil society with flight to the US!).

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:55AM (#40201021)

      ...religion hates spiritual experience and even simple pleasure it doesn't ration.

      Thus explaining why Jews are required to drink wine every week and are required to drink four glasses (definitely enough for almost anyone to at least get a buzz) on Passover. You also forgot about the numerous religions that use psychedelic mushrooms as part of their ceremonies. Religion is not the problem here.

      If you want to know why we have a war on drugs, I can think of the following more plausible explanations:

      1. Racism. Congressmen were told that black men who used cocaine would becoming unstoppable monsters, that Philipino immigrants would bring their horrible opium habits with them, that white women who smoked marijuana would want to have sex with black men, that crack makes black people crazy, that PCP makes black people crazy, etc.
      2. Police militarization. The war on drugs is a great excuse to give police officers assault rifles, body armor, and even military tanks and helicopters (see: 1033 program). The police can also use the proceeds from seized assets from drug arrests in their own budgets.
      3. Expanding executive branch power. The Controlled Substances Act allows the attorney general's office to simply declare drugs to be illegal, without any democratic process.
      4. Corporate profits. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, pharmaceutical companies, firearms companies, prison operators, companies that make surveillance equipment, petrochemical companies, and numerous others have all seen expanded profits because of the war on drugs.

      Religion is really a minor issue here. There are a few priests who will pound on their pulpits about the evils of drugs, but their power in the drug war is limited at best.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ClintJCL (264898)
        You're cherry picking. The religions you describe represent less than 5% of all religious people on the planet. The other 95% are exactly in line with what GP said.
  • Any prohibition creates a profitable black market, but technology has added a profitable, front-counter venue for these "illicit" products, as well. At this point the only thing that could provide a shred of control or containment is legalisation.

    Of course, legalisation carries a political risk not often noted; unemployment figures would sky-rocket, should the jailed be liberated.

  • Applying the precedent set by software patents, I should be able to get a patent for "... any substance which causes people to enjoy themselves...".
    Then Johnson and Johnson could sick some sort of RIAA inspired analogue on these "pirates".
    That would avoid implementation details like chemical formulae and such.

    mmmm mojo...

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:13AM (#40201139) Homepage Journal

    These synthetic drugs aren't mimicking the effects of marijuana, or of LSD. They just change your perceptions or ideas. They aren't mimicking the effects of valium, either, but nobody ays that they are. Because "mimicking valium" isn't scary scary scary. Because the corporate mass media isn't trying to scare people about valium. Because valium is actualy Valium, a brand name drug sold by giant pharmacos that advertise on TV. Marijuana and LSD are sold by independent operators who don't pay TV corps $billions a year to make them sound friendly. That's why they're illegal. Even though they're not anywhere near as scary as valium, which is actually addictive.

    But that doesn't stop Slashdot from saying these drugs "mimic marijuana", or the Miami cops telling the corporate mass media that bath salts are "a new form of LSD" when some idiot turns themself into a flesh eating zombie possibly by smoking some. Because there's no corporate PR pushback to protect the brand, any kind of inane lie will fly around the media if it appeals to fear of drugs.

    The fact that in 2012 the mass media is quoting cops saying bath salts are "the new form of LSD", and Slashdot is pimping the idea that some arbitrary drug "mimics marijuana" shows that the only victory in the Drug War is the first casualty of any war: the truth.

  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @11:38AM (#40201271)
    while I might think it's an analogue, another chemist might disagree,' says Shanks. 'That's the crux of the entire problem.

    The author seems to have missed the fact that the real crux of the problem and that is that the country has banned the relatively safe versions, causing people to seek out these dangerous copies.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

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