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How Chemistry Stymies Attempts To Regulate Synthetic Drugs 364

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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  • 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 AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:08AM (#40200773)

    Why not pass a law that just bans any drug that has the potential to be used recreation-ally? Or is that too easy?

    Because that always works so well... []

    Humanity was getting high since the dawn of time. At some point people are going to have to confront the fact that humanity enjoys altering their consciousness for recreational purposes.

  • 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.

  • Canada (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:37AM (#40200931)

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03, 2012 @10:53AM (#40201011)

    Caffeine is a non-selective adenosine antagonist. Prozac is an SSRI. Cocaine is an SNDRI. Sugar is indirectly psychoactive, at best. The pharmacology is far from subjective.

  • 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.

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

    by ewieling ( 90662 ) <user AT devnull DOT net> 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.

I've got a bad feeling about this.