Prevention is better than cure! A principle which should be applied in the case of synthetic drugs, which even if you have never heard of them, have become known as “designer” drugs in youth culture in the last ten years, if not more. They are widely accessible and can be found online or “on a night out”. But what’s worse is that these can lead to death. So what are these drugs, and what can be done about them?
K2 or Spice: potentially lethal
K2 or Spice is a synthetic cannabis that is 85 times stronger than marijuana.
On one day in July 2016, 33 people were found completely drugged in the streets of Brooklyn, and were described as zombies. They had taken an overdose of a drug called “AK-47 24 Karat”, which is a version of K2. These people were hospitalised.
The laboratory of toxicology in the University of California analysed the chemical composition of the synthetic cannabis which they found at the scene. It contained chemical compounds and a synthetic cannabinoid similar to the AB-FUBINACA molecule developed in 2009 by pharmaceutical company Pfizer as a pain reliever.
According to the American toxicology information centres, 5,300 people were exposed to synthetic cannabis in just one week in July 2016, compared to 3600 throughout the whole of 2015.
In October 2014 in Russia, at least 25 people died after having smoked Spice, and 700 people ended up in hospital during the same period. After being smoked, this product can lead to poisoning, respiratory problems and/or paranoia. What’s more, this drug is highly addictive.
The drugs are perpetually evolving and difficult to control
In one year, 540 new synthetic drugs were listed by the UN office against crime and drugs.
Since the years 2008-2010, the chemical composition of synthetic drugs has been continually evolving to try and get around the drugs legislation. Certain molecules are regularly replaced by others that are not on the list of illegal products, which makes police investigations difficult and makes it harder to fight drugs and crime.
But overall, this strategy means that these drugs have completely unpredictable health consequences.
A global public health problem
Given that there are more than 500 new synthetic products, we can’t cite them all. But you can find more information in the Global Drug Report 2017 published by the UN office for crime and drugs.
Methiopropamine, Methoxetamine, Mexedrone, Diclazepam: these chemicals are generally made in laboratories in China and India. They are often made look like sweets or come in the form of little coloured tablets.
The four most widespread families of synthetic drugs are psychedelics, stimulants, sedatives and cannabinaoids. The new synthetic products chemically copy and alter the effects of “traditional” drugs. They are constantly being revised and changed.
As a result, we have no precise data on the effects of these synthetic drugs, which are constantly being modified.
So what can we do?
The best solution, while we are trying to address the problem of production, is to educate young people about them and promote as much awareness as possible about the lethal dangers of these new synthetic products, in order to convince them never to try them.