The world is getting high on synthetic drugs like meow, spice and V8 — Quartz

The world is awash with synthetic recreational drugs – those that are made in the lab, not grown in a field or greenhouse – thanks to their growing popularity in China, high demand in the United States, and tiny labs in countries around the world. such as Mexico and Thailand. who distribute them all over the world. Methamphetamine is by far the most common synthetic substance, but a disconcerting new class of drugs is growing at what the United Nations calls an “unprecedented rate” in a May 19 report.

Called “new psychoactive substances” or NPS, drugs pose various health threats, but are difficult to monitor and control because they are often not classified as illegal drugs or substances in many countries. Often they are sold openly on the Internet, sometimes as legal substitutes for illegal drugs.

Through a combination of relatively anonymous Internet sales and international courier services, these drugs are popping up everywhere and baffling drug enforcement officials and addiction treatment centers. It’s “a whole new world,” Sarah Charlton, director of an addiction clinic in Hobart, Tasmania, told an Australian news site in March. “Half the time people don’t know what’s in it, it’s Russian roulette.” In April, police on the island of Jersey seized three kilos of NPS. “You have no idea what’s in it and no idea what damage it will do to you,” Inspector Craig Jackson said.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and its member countries have identified more than 200,000 new NPS in recent years:

Here are the NPS that members of the UN most often encounter:

Synthetic cannabinoids: Produced to mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, with names like “Spice” and “K2”, these drugs account for nearly 30% of NPS reported to UNODC over the past five years. Although they are illegal in the United States and increasingly in Europe and Asia, they have proven difficult to eradicate. Chemists have been known to scour scientific journals for compounds “originally designed as research tools to study the properties of cannabinoid receptors,” Forbes reported this month.

Meow meowor mephedrone: one of the synthetic cathinones, also known as “bath salts” which account for 25% of reported NPS use, the drug is said to produce “effects similar to those of MDMA and cocaine”, reported Rolling Stone, but has also been linked to violent self-harm.

V8 and Expressway: Common brand names that describe certain types of phenethylamines, a broad class of drugs that are often sold online that promise to mimic the effects of drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. In 2013, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency classified three hallucinogenic phenethylamines as illegal Schedule I drugs, saying they were linked to at least 19 deaths.

Alvin J. Chase