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Testing for Many Designer Drugs At Once 281

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the collision-induced-disassociation dept.
LilaG writes "Drug tests spot banned substances based on their chemical structures, but a new breed of narcotics is designed to evade such tests. These synthetic marijuana drugs, found in 'herbal incense,' are mere chemical tweaks of each other, allowing them to escape detection each time researchers develop a new test for one of the compounds. Now chemists have developed a method that can screen for multiple designer drugs at once, without knowing their structures. The test may help law enforcement crack down on the substances. The researchers used a technique called 'mass defect filtering,' which can detect related compounds all at once. That's because related compounds have almost equal numbers to the right of the decimal point in their molecular masses. The researchers tested their technique on 32 herbal products ... They found that every product contained one or more synthetic cannabinoid; all told, they identified nine different compounds in them — two illegal ones and seven that are not regulated. The original paper appears (behind a paywall) in Analytical Chemistry." From the article: "The research is timely, too. 'Many drugs of abuse in the Olympics are designer drugs,' he [Gary Siuzdak] says, in the steroid family. Grabenauer plans to extend her method to other designer drug families."
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Testing for Many Designer Drugs At Once

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  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@gmail. c o m> on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:13PM (#40365919)
    Can't wait to be forced to provide mouth swabs at airports.
    • by EdIII (1114411) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:45PM (#40366065)

      Can't wait to be forced to provide mouth swabs at airports.

      It doesn't take an oracle to figure out that orifice is optimistic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They already swab your hands for chemical residue if they think you might be impaired. They did it to me in Atlanta, I was shocked. And also probably logged as an entry into a database somewhere.
      • by Soporific (595477)

        Me too, but for bomb elements. I said I was smoking cigarettes and they said "I understand sir" and I boarded my flight.

        ~S

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Entropius (188861)

      Can't wait to be forced to provide mouth* swabs at airports.

      *(or vagina)

  • until we (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nimbius (983462) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:17PM (#40365933) Homepage
    address the greater issue of biblical retribution as drug policy i dont see science being able to contribute anything meaningful. Occams razor would suggest the simple solution to whatever the hell OP means by "synthetic marijuana" is just to legalize marijuana itself.
    the 'war on drugs' is such an abject failure that that not even our presidents and congress comment upon unless to reinforce the consistently disproven negative myths and stereotypes. Until we apply a modicum of science to determining what vectors cause drug abuse in society, all we're doing is inventing new ways to fill prisons.
    • Re:until we (Score:5, Informative)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:29PM (#40365997)

      Until we apply a modicum of science to determining what vectors cause drug abuse in society, all we're doing is inventing new ways to fill prisons.

      There are a lot of "for profit" prisons being run by corporations. So generating more inmates may be a goal. More inmates mean more revenues for those corporations.

      And this is an easy way for politicians to appear "tough on crime" when they need election points.

      • by bigtrike (904535)

        And this is an easy way for politicians to appear "tough on crime" when they need donations.

        FTFY

      • Indeed. It's frightening to think that the legal system has been hijacked to create a form of legal slavery.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:06PM (#40366171)

      the 'war on drugs' is such an abject failure

      That depends on your definition of "success." Since its inception, there have been the following goals in the war on drugs:

      1. Harassing and arresting black people, especially black men. As far back as the debate on cocaine prohibition (yes, this was once debated), there were people, especially police officers, warning of the dangers of black men using drugs. Black men on cocaine were unstoppable monsters, and cops had no choice but to upgrade the caliber of their guns to fight them. Black men who smoked marijuana were incited to play jazz music, and white women who smoked marijuana would want to have sex with black men. Black men who use PCP will go crazy. Black people will go nuts over crack cocaine.
      2. Increasing police power. Related to the above, since we obviously need more police officers in black neighborhoods to crack down on dangerous black drug users. We also need cops attacking hippies and anti-war protesters. We need cops who carry assault rifles and grenades to fight the drug dealers (did I mention that they are black too? That's the message that the mainstream media sends.). The cops also need the power to declare drugs to be illegal, without consulting congress. The cops also need to be allowed to recycle seized assets from drug raids into their budgets. They need expanded surveillance capabilities.
      3. Corporate profits. Hemp fibers compete with synthetics. Alcohol, tobacco, and coffee companies have to compete with all those other recreational drugs, so let's make them illegal. Pharmaceutical companies get to inflate their profits by ensuring that only they legally are allowed to market entire classes of drugs (opiates, amphetamines, etc.). Firearms companies, law enforcement equipment makers, and so forth have seen big profits from the drug war. Let's not forget the private prison operators, a relatively new trend but an important one -- big profits come from big prison populations.

      Notice something missing from that list? Public health and safety. That's at the bottom of the priorities list in the war on drugs, because the war on drugs never had anything to do with health or safety.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        making drugs isn't just about target blacks; it's about targeting many minorities. marijuana was made illegal because arizona wanted a reasons to go after mexicans. opium was made illegal to go after chinese.

        • So why was alcohol made illegal?

          Regulations are generally made with the best of intentions. That the consequences can be unpredictable, and not wholly positive is an argument for checks on government power, and minimal regulation, not conspiracy theories.

    • address the greater issue of biblical retribution as drug policy i dont see science being able to contribute anything meaningful. Occams razor would suggest the simple solution to whatever the hell OP means by "synthetic marijuana" is just to legalize marijuana itself.

      Science doesn't care whether the drugs being tested are for draconian legal policy (btw, I likely agree with you on that) or for ensuring that cheaters don't get ahead in athletic competitions. And in the latter case, I think it's absolutely a

  • Banning chemicals based on their molecular mass! This sounds like a great way to ban everything. Then the government can lock us all up.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The one drug that lasts for months in your system, already. The one drug that is so prevalent in tests that a number of labs refuse to test for drugs at all, because the only thing they ever detect is marijuana?, because all of the hard drugs dissipate from the system within a few days? The one drug that physicians, economists, and social agentsies around the world say should not be prohibited at all?

    Glad to see we're prioritizing.

    • Well, it's that, or they have to talk about the state of the economy. And since that's not much of a winning issue for the Party of Purple, they're going to focus on making mountains out of molehills instead.

  • by 0WaitState (231806) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:28PM (#40365991)
    So, um, what's the false positive rate with this test? For a while people were being convicted of cocaine trafficking because the money in their pockets had traces of cocaine. Eventually it was disclosed that ALL (US) currency has traces of cocaine.
    • by bky1701 (979071) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:34PM (#40366023) Homepage
      Doesn't matter. If there is a chance you did something illegal, in the new United States, you are automatically convicted and will serve out the maximum sentence until proven innocent. And if, by some miraculous mechanism you manage to survive that fate, well, they'll just revoke all the "privileges" you have, like driving, internet, education, leaving your house....

      False positives stopped being a concern around the time that "reasonable doubt" was replaced by "irrefutable proof of innocence."
      • by NoKaOi (1415755)

        Doesn't matter. If there is a chance you did something illegal, in the new United States, you are automatically convicted and will serve out the maximum sentence until proven innocent.

        Unless you have millions of dollars to spend on lawyers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:31PM (#40366007)

    He did 80 million in damages to stop a freeway chase.
    That is what the government is doing to tax payers with this crap.

    End the drug war and give old people back there social security.

    I am sick of footing the bill for anything they can think of.

  • Insanity. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:33PM (#40366017)

    I'm the sort of guy who can't personally empathize with chemical escapism (our time in reality is far too limited as it is for my tastes, and there's far too much to explore) - but really, it just seems complete insanity to expect to help anything by denying it as harshly as we do to others, at least in the US.

    The best path would seem to be to defuse the need, and eliminate the allure, rather than spend such a huge percentage of our shared wealth on prisons and enforcement, all while simply breeding worse problems.

    There's endless pits of dependency - the harsh 'solutions' of endless punishment only seem to dig the holes into deeper, stranger territory - spreading the drug problem into endless splinters.

    As a non-drug-user in general, I'm sick of paying the hidden tax of an inefficient drug policy. I'd rather have open drug use and pity the over-users, rather than have to pay for such an abnormally high portion of our population to remain in jail, contributing greatly to the ruin of our economy.

    Ryan Fenton

    • The best path would seem to be to defuse the need

      No, the best plan is to regulate drugs, so that (a) people know what they are ingesting (b) people are warned about possible unwanted effects and (c) houses do not turn into superfund sites because of underground chemical labs. People are always going to use recreational drugs; the only societies in human history that were actually "drug free" were those that had no access to drugs, and those are a rarity. People are also going to use drugs in non-recreational manners, like drinking coffee to help focus

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        Pot and Acid are often used in non-recreational manners. There's plenty of people who took acid to explore their own minds and some whose goal was spiritual insight. (I'm not saying that it worked - I've seen some people where I'm pretty sure it didn't). Pot supposedly has some good uses as an anti-nausea drug, and LSD was used in a number of treatment programs to get people off of other drugs, drinking and some even sexually obsessive behaviors such as paedophilia in the 60s and many of these programs repo

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm the sort of guy who can't personally empathize with chemical escapism (our time in reality is far too limited as it is for my tastes, and there's far too much to explore)

      Ah, but if you indulged for a while in, your nauseatingly patronizing term, "chemical escapism" you would realize that there is yet even more reality to explore, dork.

      • Re:Insanity. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lightknight (213164) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:02PM (#40366439) Homepage

        Ah, the power of the 'Dare' program -> it's kind of like your favorite party's or country's propaganda: you live in the best country in the world, why would you ever want to vacation elsewhere? you're already in the right party, with the right beliefs, why question those beliefs? etc.

        Knowledge not gained first-hand is worth its weight in sand.

    • Re:Insanity. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ClintJCL (264898) <[clintjcl+slashdot] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:15PM (#40366513) Homepage Journal
      "There's far too much to explore", said the man unwilling to explore recreational drugs.
  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:39PM (#40366037)

    The real title turned out to be far less exciting.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:47PM (#40366069)
    Just like when we had prohibition of alcohol, people were going blind from stills, refusing to regulate pot means they can make poisonous alternatives. I've heard of people getting real sick and permanently maimed off of designer drugs. The worst that can happen with pot is that you try and drive somewhere intoxicated. Pot doesn't even cause lung cancer like cigarettes(You can google many mainstream scientific studies).

    Legalization of pot would harm gangs who sell pot in addition to removing pot from being a gateway drug. Since people would no longer go to underground dealers for pot, they would no longer have access to the other underground connections.
    • Google results like this one?
      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-teenage-mind/201102/does-marijuana-cause-cancer [psychologytoday.com]

      or this?
      http://lungcancer.about.com/od/causesoflungcance1/f/marijuana.htm [about.com]

      At best, you can say that there are no definitive studies linking the two, but it appears that most combustibles emit carcinogens when burned.

      I'm not saying that's a reason to ban marijuana, but, like with tobacco, users should really make informed choices.

      • I believe GPs point was that pot was less likely to cause cancer than tobacco, and that if cancer was reason pot was banned, tobacco should be banned too.

    • by naroom (1560139)

      The worst that can happen with pot is that you try and drive somewhere intoxicated.

      Lost a friend to bad weed that was laced with meth. She smoked it and her heart stopped.

      The fact that pot is illegal is by far the biggest reason it is a dangerous drug. Legalize it and regulate the hell out of it, please.

    • A single use of pot every now and then might is not that harmful, but active/heavy use does cause you to become more passive, self-centered and other psychological issues (I'm pretty sure I've seen studies about both but I would be perfectly fine making that claim just based on the anecdotal evidence). Now, you may say "Sure, but active/heavy use of alcohol... or indeed, any brain chemistry altering substance... causes just as bad issues!" and I'm not going to deny that. The big difference however is that w

  • OR (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday June 18, 2012 @09:50PM (#40366101)
    or... we could just make pot legal so people wouldn't be smoking these horrifically dangerous "Bath salts" as a replacement. Pots dangers are well known, and relatively benign in comparison to even most over the counter medications. You're far more likely to become dependent on cold medicine and even be killed by it than you are pot. But we continue to treat pot like it's some kind of hardcore child killer.

    They are right, Pot is a gateway drug. But only because they made it so. They tell school children its this horrible thing. Bad kids do it. Then the kids find out just how many of their friends smoke it at parties. Holy crap! and then they try it... and it doesn't make them go insane like they've been lead to believe. If they've lied to me about pot, how bad can cocaine be right?

    Make it legal to grow. Legal to smoke. Legal to give away for free to someone over the age of 18. Make it illegal to sell. Problem solved and no more bath salts.
    • The "bath salts" are/were amphetamine/cocaine substitutes. Not cannabinoids.
    • or... we could just make pot legal so people wouldn't be smoking these horrifically dangerous "Bath salts" as a replacement

      Bath salts are not a replacement for pot, they are a stimulant that is designed to be a legal replacement for methamphetamine (i.e. no prescription required -- yes, methamphetamine is legal by prescription, and children are sometimes given prescriptions for it). Unfortunately, the common stimulant in bath salts, MDPV, can cause psychotic episodes.

      Which is why we should require a prominent warning label. "This product may cause psychotic episodes. Do not use without the assistance of a sober babysitt

  • The DEA is playing wack-a-mole with synthetic cannabinoids and wants to come up with a simple way to outlaw the entire CLASS of drugs that contain anything vaguely resembling a cannabinoid. The problem is that if they use this technique to stomp on this class, it will open up a whole can of worms involving other drugs which are also the subject of synthetic analogs. The problem is these drugs all ping receptors in the brain for naturally occurring chemistry that may or may not be chemically similar. This is

    • There are plenty of bad things out there that you can fail to regulate. Methamphetamines come to mind

      Methamphetamine is legal by prescription, it is prescribe to children, and the production of pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine is well regulated. The problem is that people who want to use it to get high cannot find a legal source, so they turn to illegal sources, which have extremely poor quality control. Much of the damage caused by methamphetamine abuse is caused by adulterants in the drug, leftovers from poorly controlled production.

      The obvious answer is to create legal sources for recreationa

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:10PM (#40366191)
    ...to just get a sample of Keith Richard's blood and run a comparison. If he hasn't done it, you don't want it.
  • "The researchers tested their technique on 32 herbal products ... They found that every product contained one or more synthetic cannabinoid; ..."

    Sounds like a pretty good reason to doubt the reliability of the test in question.

  • Simple question... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:45PM (#40366345) Homepage Journal

    These synthetic marijuana drugs, found in 'herbal incense,' are mere chemical tweaks of each other, allowing them to escape detection each time researchers develop a new test for one of the compounds. Now chemists have developed a method that can screen for multiple designer drugs at once, without knowing their structures. The test may help law enforcement crack down on the substances.

    Why? Do we not have enough people in prison to make it sufficiently profitable for the new privatized penal industry?

    Isn't the meteoric increase in worker productivity over the past decades enough for our economic overlords? Is it just to make sure we all know who's boss?

    Did you know that the industry-funded legislative group ALEC is behind many of the new harsher drug laws? I really don't understand it. Why is an industry-funded lobbying group so concerned about marijuana, gay marriage, gun laws and keeping the poor, students and the elderly from voting?

  • by thesandtiger (819476) on Monday June 18, 2012 @10:50PM (#40366375)

    Let people smoke, shoot, drink, or otherwise ingest anything they want. Tax drugs, use part of the tax to pay for the societal costs of drug abuse, and go from there.

    Intoxication should be considered an aggravating factor in any crime, and should be made a crime in and of itself in certain situations (see driving under the influence).

    Making better tests is interesting in an academic way, and possibly useful for certain professions where sobriety is absolutely essential (law enforcement, for one example), but honestly, who gives a fuck for most anything else? If drug use affects your work you'll get fired in time anyway, and if you do harm to another person while high you're screwed anyway.

    I'm saying this as someone who works in public health - the damage done by this kind of prohibition VASTLY outweighs the societal benefit of restricting drug use. There's absolutely no question about it.

    • Is it? The prohibition in the USSR that actually increased the life expectancy proves you wrong.

      • by Splab (574204) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:07AM (#40367089)

        Really? Might wanna go look up Krokodil and Russia. That's the result of prohibition.

        Ban the good drugs and fiends will go for whatever substitute they can cook up and trust me, we definitely want people who go sit in the corner looking at the pretty colors rather than people coming into the ER with their flesh rotten to the bones:
        http://mylifeasateenageloser.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/127550-horrifying-side-effects-of-krokodil.jpg [wordpress.com] (NOT SAFE FOR ANYONE!)

        • Yes, really.
          Besides, nobody desomorphine krokodil, except for the yellow press. The only ones who use it are heroin addicts who cannot afford heroin anymore and are walking dead anyway. This is not a result of prohibition but of stupidity. Heroin addicts aren't those who would sit in the corner looking at pretty colours. If they'd wanted to do that, they'd stay with LSD instead of heroin because there is no difference in illegality and LSD is cheaper.

      • Life expectancy is one, not particularly great, measure of health, and it ignores things like quality of life.

        The US currently has over 2 million people in prisons, and most estimates say about half of those are there for drug related offenses. In some communities, it is more likely for a male to go to prison or be murdered than to go to college. Previously incarcerated individuals have an incredibly hard time finding work after release, and consequently reoffend for lack of real options. That's the immedia

  • by mbone (558574) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @12:35AM (#40366811)

    The 1% don't do drug tests. What more do you need to know?

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @08:11AM (#40368763)
    I've always believed in the tried and true method of if the person's a lazy, half asleep, do-nothing moron at their job, they get fired. That does sort of leapfrop the whole drug test thing. Oh and if they're unstable, shaky, and can't concentrate as well. That does sort of cover the majority of illegal or pending-illegal drugs.
  • by muridae (966931) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:06AM (#40370273)
    Black pepper, or morphine, or dilaudid, or a codeine metabolite? If this test can't tell, then it is dangerously flawed. Cause I don't think the trace of metabolite from poppy seed muffins is illegal yet. But now that I've said this, black pepper will probably be the name of the next designer opiate.
  • by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:30PM (#40376689) Journal

    Okay, one down. Lets all band together and work out how to solve technical challenges of enforcing bad drug laws so we can penalize more innocent citizens!

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