Saturday, July 6, 2013

Popular Synthetics: The Class of 2013

Navigating the new alphabet of intoxication.

You don’t have to be a molecular chemist to know which of today’s recreational drugs are safe. Wait, I take that back. You DO have to be a molecular chemist to navigate today’s synthetic drug market with anything like a modest degree of safety.

It’s hard not to get nostalgic: Back in the day, you had your pot, you had your acid, your coke, your speed, and your heroin. And that, with the exception of a few freak outriders like PCP, was about that. Baby boomers of today, already losing touch with leading-edge music—Macklemore? Tame Impala?—can now consider themselves officially out of touch when it comes to illegal drugs.

That is, unless they are familiar with psychoactive chemicals beyond mere methamphetamine “bath salt” knockoffs like mephedrone, and cannabis “Spice” look-alikes such as JWH-018. We’re talking about drugs like Bromo-DragonFly, Benzo Fury, and 2C-B.  As Vanessa Grigoriadis writes in New York Magazine: “These drug users imagine themselves as amateur chemists, proto-Walter Whites, sampling and resynthesizing drugs to achieve exactly the state of consciousness they find most pleasurable. And there are no end of drugs to play with.”

A big piece of the synthetic drugs movement can be traced to the work of the legendary Alexander Shulgin, a Harvard grad who worked for Dow chemical, and who invented more than 100 entirely novel hallucinogenic compounds over the years. Other than the hallucinogens investigated by Shulgin and his coterie of personal friends, who were willing to take new hallucinogens and report back, none of the drugs on this list were meant for, or tested on, human beings.

Many of them are not, technically, new. Nonetheless, writes Grigoriadis, "almost every drug, from pot to GHB to morphine, has been messed with, as chemists find that removing a methoxy group or adding a benzene ring makes a new drug with different properties: body-grooving with a side helping of visuals, euphoric or speedy, long or short, or administering just the right dose of primal fear. Formerly known as “designer drugs,” they have morphed into “synthetic highs.” The tricky precursor chemical problem has become much easier to solve in the present moment, when any budding entrepreneur can send the official chemical designation of a drug, called its CAS number, to any of dozens of manufacturers in China, who will provide them with whatever weird “research” drug they need.

Herewith, a sampling of a few popular drugs of the day:

  • 2C Series
2C-P is an Alexander Shulgin favorite, a hallucinogenic phenethylamine known officially as 2-(2,5-dmethoxy-4-propylphenyl)ethanamine. But your mileage may vary. Phenethylamine is similar in action to amphetamine and acts on dopamine and norepinephrine receptors. Nonetheless, 2C drugs have strong psychedelic effects as well. Other phenethylamine drugs include ephedrine, mescaline, bupropion (Wellbutrin), and venlafaxine (Effexor). There are several drugs in the 2C family, including 2C-B and 2C-I, but 2C-P is considered the strongest in the class, an intense psychedelic with visualizations lasting for up to 16 hours. 2C-B, or 4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine is another popular hallucinogen, described by some as a cross between LSD and MDMA (Ecstasy)—less “psychedelic” than LSD, with stronger “body effects.” Drugs in this family are generally recognized as non-addictive, but large doses can cause sweating and chills, stomach discomfort, and paranoia or panic. A close cousin, the DOB drugs (2,5-Dimethoxy-4-Bromoamphetamine) are a related family of hallucinogens.

  • Bromo-Dragonfly
This synthetic, sold as 3C-Bromo-Dragonfly and DOB-Dragonfly, is a very strong serotonin agonist, and has effects consistent with serotonin 5-HT hallucinogens such as LSD. This one came out of Purdue Pharmaceuticals as a compound for use in serotonin research, and belongs to a class of drugs called benzodifurans, which are related to the phenethylamines. It has been implicated in several deaths since it was first reported in 2007, says drug site Erowid. Positive effects listed at EROWID  included mood lift, visual changes, and increased energy. Negative effects include short-term memory loss, muscle tension, and “unknown risks due to research chemical status.” This is not a drug to take lightly. Dr. Jeff Lapoint, an attending physician at San Diego’s Kaiser Permanente and an expert in toxicology, recently told Tony O'Neill at The Fix that “Bromo-Dragonfly is probably the scariest thing on the list.”

  • NBOMe Series
This group of synthetics, now available to underground buyers, is a perfect example of a complicated new series of psychoactive drugs with little or no track record of human use before they appeared online in 2010. When coherently labeled at all, they are sold as 2C-C-NBOMe, 2c-I-NBOMe, 25C-NBOMe, and mescaline-NBOMe, among other designations. The NBOMe series have attributes of both hallucinogens and amphetamines, and are active at very low doses, like LSD. There isn’t even much in the way of animal research on this collection. As with many of these synthetics, reports linking 2C-C-NBOMe to the deaths of young users have surfaced over the past two years.  While hallucinogens always present this Janus-faced aspect, this roll-the-dice-for-a-good-trip-or-a-bad-trip vibe, the ability to actually KNOW what you are taking—always a problem of major significance in the underground drug world—becomes even more acute in the case of research chemicals not intended for human use, let alone Prime Time.  If all goes well, users get a mood lift, visuals, and euphoria. At high doses, the effects can include nausea, paranoia, extreme fear, and panic. It is the essential dilemma at the heart of psychedelic experimentation—there are no guarantees going in, and it is always, at least to a degree, a form of psychic Russian roulette.

  • 6-APB (Benzo Fury)
A lot of different drugs are sold as Benzo Fury, but the name comes originally from 6-APB, or 6-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran. Like so many other designer amphetamines, 6-APB showed up online in 2010. The online drug discussion site Bluelight notes that vendors also peddle it as 6-APDB, 5-APDB, and 4-D as well. To date it has mostly surfaced as a club drug in the UK, and is chemically similar to MDA, another “entactogen” with strong body effects that was popular in the 60s as the “love drug.” Unfortunately Benzo Fury proved to be such a Euro-smash as a brand that drug sellers started packaging any research chemical at hand as Benzo Fury, so that the brand name has already become meaningless.

  • MDPV
3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone, frequently referred to as bath salts, or sometimes as Molly, which is supposed to mean MDMA, is primarily a methamphetamine-style stimulant, but can induce hallucinations at high doses, EROWID reports, as well as tachycardia and elevated blood pressure. As with speed, withdrawal can be extremely problematic, and increased mental and physical energy make this one highly reinforcing. Redosing is common. Recent studies strongly suggest that it is addictive in humans. A report at EROWID states: “Doing/coming off of MDPV is like winning a Mercedes and being told at the last minute they got your name wrong. Uggh.”

  • 5-MeO-DMT
This naturally occurring hallucinogenic tryptamine, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine by name, has the unfortunate luck of sounding like another drug, simply called DMT. Both have hallucinogenic properties, but vaporized 5-MeO-DMT is active at 5 mg, where DMT is only active at a dosage about 5 times that high. So confusing the two drugs is not wise. High doses of 5-MeO-DMT can cause cardiac problems, convulsions, and mental confusion. Dealers who use them interchangeably are to be avoided. Unlike some of the other drugs in this list, 5-MeO-DMT has a long pedigree, in use since the 1970s, and is thought by some anthropologists to have been an ingredient in “shamanic snuff” used by early civilizations.

Photo Credit:


Symp said...

One of the best texts I've read ever on divulgation of new drugs info and harm reduction.

I support CAS NUMBER for all drug requirements and sales.


Lars said...

6-APB is not the same as 6-APDB, which is again not the same as 5-APDB nor 5-APB.

I was surprised to discover that Venlafaxine is indeed a phenethylamine (but a weird one, as are baclofen and phenibut).

Travis said...

Most of these are have been popular for years, although good call with the NBOMes. I'd also mention

3,4 CTMP

AH-7921 and MT-45 are both old school opiates, but someone's been making them. These are probably the first commonly available opiate RCs. There's been some fentanyl analogues before, but they weren't that popular IIRC.

Etaqualone's also being sold.

Etizolam (benzo) has been getting quite popular since 2012.

Anonymous said...

come on, you can't say that phenethylamine is similar in action to amphetamine. Amphetamine is an abbreviation of α-methylphenethylamine, so these are not two different substances, both are the same substance!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...