Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Tests for “Legal Marijuana,” “Bath Salts” and Other Emerging Designer Drugs

01.09.2011
Scientists today reported development of much needed new tests to help cope with a wave of deaths, emergency room visits and other problems from a new genre of designer drugs sold legally in stores and online that mimic the effects of cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. They spoke at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held here this week.

The reports, among more than 7,500 on the ACS agenda, focus on drugs sold as “bath salts,” “plant food,” “incense” and other products with colorful names, such as “Ivory Wave,” “Red Dove” and “legal marijuana.” They provide users with a high, but many have not yet been made illegal and are undetectable with current drug tests. In one presentation on these “legal highs,” a United Kingdom researcher reported a new method to trace the source of the substances in “bath salts.” In the other, a U.S. researcher discussed the challenges facing law enforcement and policy makers in regulating synthetic versions of marijuana.

Oliver Sutcliffe, Ph.D., and his collaborators reported the successful use of a method called isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) to determine who is making bath salts — drugs that can cause euphoria, paranoia, anxiety and hallucinations when snorted, smoked or injected — and which chemical companies supplied the raw materials. He and his co-workers are based at the University of Strathclyde and the James Hutton Institute in the U.K.

“With the new method, we could work backwards and trace the substances back to the starting materials,” said Sutcliffe. IRMS measures the relative amounts of an element’s different forms, or isotopic ratio. “This method was successful because the isotopic ratio of the starting material is transferred like a fingerprint through the synthesis,” he explained.

“Bath salts” first garnered major media attention in the U.K. in early 2010, and then became a problem in the U.S. These products are not in the supermarket soap aisle — they are sold on the Internet, on the street and in stores that sell drug paraphernalia. They are sold in small individual bags for as low as $20 each for the real purpose of providing a cheap, legal high.

The powders often contain mephedrone, which is a synthetic compound, structurally related to methcathinone, which is found in Khat — a plant that is illegal in many countries, including the U.K. and the U.S. Usually, that would mean that these compounds (and derivatives thereof) would be illegal in those countries too, but because the bath salts are labeled “not for human consumption,” they get around this restriction and other legislation governing the supply of medicines for human use. However, Florida and Louisiana — two hotspots of bath salts abuse — specifically banned the substances. U.K. officials banned the import of bath salts, which may lead some in the drug trade to set up clandestine labs on U.K. soil, said Sutcliffe. The new method provides law enforcement with a tool to track down these bath salts manufacturers.

In previous work, Sutcliffe developed the first pure reference standard for mephedrone, as well as the first reliable liquid chromatography test for the substance, which could be easily run in a typical law enforcement lab. The team is also developing a color-change test kit for mephedrone, which he estimates may be available by the end of the year.

In another presentation, Robert Lantz, Ph.D., from the Rocky Mountain Instrumental Laboratories, described another high that is legal in most of the U.S. — synthetic cannabinoids marketed as incense, a spice product or “legal marijuana” that give a high similar to marijuana without showing up in conventional drug tests.

“We can detect synthetic cannabinoids with modern analytical chemistry techniques, such as liquid or gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry, but these assays are too expensive for the 5,000-10,000 urine samples that most drug testing labs receive each day,” said Lantz. Most labs screen for drugs with less expensive antibody assays, but because the structures of these substances are so dissimilar, different antibodies would likely be required for many of them, driving up the cost of a more comprehensive test.

Synthetic cannabinoid abuse rose sharply in 2010, according to U.S. poison control centers, up to 2,863 compared to only 14 in 2009. About 200 synthetic cannabinoids exist, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) banned only five of those. A handful of states, such as Washington, Georgia and Colorado, banned five of them, but they are not always the same five that the DEA banned. “The states banned several specific compounds without a particular basis for their choices,” Lantz pointed out.

Colorado recently passed a law banning any substance that binds to a cannabinoid receptor in the human body. “The bill was well-intentioned, but technically, the new law not only covers synthetic cannabinoids, but also endocannabinoids, which are naturally occurring substances that the human body produces to regulate many normal processes,” said Lantz.

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society contact newsroom@acs.org.

CONTACT:
Oliver Sutcliffe, Ph.D.
Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, G1 1XW, U.K.
Phone: +44-1415-484-968
E-mail: oliver.sutcliffe@strath.ac.uk
Robert Lantz, Ph.D.
Rocky Mountain Instrumental Laboratories
Ft. Collins, CO 80525
Phone: 970-266-8108
E-mail: rklantz@rockylab.com
Abstract (Dr. Sutcliffe):
The increase in the global abuse of synthetic cathinones has given rise to significant legal and analytical challenges in their identification and quantification - thus rapid methods of testing (especially in the field) are urgently required. This paper presents synthesis; characterisation; validated presumptive and quantitative methods for these substances (both in pure and adulterated samples) and a rapid, novel NMR screening technique for street samples containing components which cannot normally be detected using standard chromatographic methods.

Abstract (Dr. Lantz):

There is no end to human ingenuity. Unfortunately, this phrase even provides to be true when it comes to methods and means of getting high. Synthetic Cannabinoids, such as JWH-018 which is only one of many such substances (which is currently marketed as K2), and other substances such as Methylone (MDPV) and Mephedrone (which is currently marketed as “Bath Salts” or “Plant Food” respectively) present unique analytical chemistry challenges from a chromatographic point-of-view. Related challenges in terms of quantitation of these substances still exist. In the rush to make illegal and prosecute the possession and use of these substances, errors related the qualitative and quantitative reporting of these compounds can occur. This presentation will examine these challenges that exist and what lies ahead.

This research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society

Michael Bernstein | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.acs.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View
22.06.2018 | University of Sussex

nachricht New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>