Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bath Salts Mixed With Spice: Two Drugs In One

Researchers document latest recreational Frankenmolecule.

Researchers in Japan have run across what is believed to be the first example of a hybrid synthetic drug that is a combination of a methamphetamine-related cathinone (bath salts) and an entirely new synthetic cannabinoid.

In a paper now in press for Forensic Science International, investigators from the National Institute of Health Sciences in Tokyo conducted a new round of drug buying on the Internet, also netting and identifying 12 more synthetic cannabinoids, heretofore unseen in the market for non-THC marijuana substitutes. Japan, like the U.S. and Europe, has been attempting to outlaw these problem compounds. In the paper by Nahoko Uchiyama and others, a “completely new type of designer drug, URB-754,” was identified. It is a new synthetic cannabis compound, and the researchers found it packaged together with a cathinone derivative called 4-Me-MABP.

That, in itself, was odd enough. But mass spectrometry and a little mixing of their own revealed to the scientists that the two chemicals had also blended to create a third thing, a freak admixture, half fake marijuana, half designer amphetamine, and 100% new under the sun. This combination drug is so new it doesn’t have a short name yet. It’s called (N,5-dimethyl-N-(1-oxo-1-(p-tolyl)butan-2-yl)-2-(N′-(p-tolyl)ureido)benzamide). Check out additional coverage by Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks, where the journal report was discussed earlier.

And that, at present, is all we know about the matter. It’s not even clear how this combination substance would be ingested for maximum effect. The authors of the paper express concern about the “reactive nature of both compounds” that comprise the new hybrid, but refrain from making any predictions about its effects. “There is little information about most of the newly detected compounds,” the authors write. “Furthermore, the recent trend seems to be to mix different types of designer drugs such as cathinones (stimulants) or tryptamines (hallucinogens) with synthetic cannabinoids in illegal products. Therefore, there is the potential for serious health risks associated with their use.”

Yes, that’s right, one additional product the Japanese researchers analyzed was found to contain a synthetic cannabinoid in combination with a tryptamine, a category of compounds that includes psychedelics such as LSD, DMT, psilocybin, and others. Swell. It’s now completely clear that without a sophisticated lab analysis of bath salt and spice products, there are no guarantees whatsoever about what is being smoked, snorted, or based.

Quite a haul: A new type of designer drug, 12 new cannabis-like drugs, and a crazy reaction product made up of synthetic cannabis and cathinone. The DEA charts above clearly show that something is causing an increase in drug-related toxic reactions lately.

Overall, the trend of scientific research on bath salts and spice drugs continues to be troubling. Whether any of this will resonate with people in their prime drug-using years, after all the years of “This is Your Brain on Drugs” disinformation campaigns, remains to be seen. It looks more and more like the best harm reduction advice available is to stick with marijuana and meth, if that’s what you’re using or abusing. Nothing coming down the pike as bath salts or spice cannabinoids is an obvious improvement, and the ability to know what you are actually taking has fallen to virtually zero in this category. Early identification and constant monitoring of new substances is now a vital task, however Sisyphean.

Uchiyama N., Kawamura M., Kikura-Hanajiri R. & Goda Y. (2012). URB-754: A new class of designer drug and 12 synthetic cannabinoids detected in illegal products, Forensic Science International,    DOI:

Photo: Illinois Poison Control Center Blog

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