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The Rising Risk of Research Chemicals

If you don’t know what research chemicals are, don’t worry you are not alone. Research chemicals are psychoactive drugs that have recently been discovered through research and experimenting with other drugs. When existing drugs are studied in a lab by researchers they are modified and changed into something new. The most common form of this is ecstasy and molly. When the change is made, the research chemicals become what are known to users, as designer drugs. Often times, the designer drugs are legal because they are modifications of the original, illegal drug.

Between 1997 and 2011, more than 200 new substances were notified through the early-warning system. The use of these chemicals, is similar to the use of more common drugs and are usually bought online and are difficult to detect on drug tests. They are also difficult to pronounce and are usually named something like W-18, 2Ci, etc. etc.

Some examples of these research chemicals are:

  • Stimulants: geranamine, desoxypipradrol, mephedrone and MDPV
  • Sedatives: premazepam and methylmethaqualone
  • Viagra copycats
  • Tanning drugs
  • Cannabinoids: JWH-018 and CP 47,497

Some of the more recent cannabinoids discovered, also referred to as “synthetic marijuana,” have not been produced by scientists in a lab. Rather, they appear to be the invention of designer drug dealers themselves. Some of these compounds include AB-001, RCS-8 and RCS-4.

The most concerning research chemicals however, and the ones to make most recent headlines are those that are opioid based, fentanyl specifically, Fentanyl and its derivatives such as AH-971 and U-47700 pose the greatest public health risk. And there is one that has been making headlines since 2016, W-18.

What is W-18?

W-18 is a research chemical with painkilling properties made by pharmaceutical chemists at the University of Alberta. It is only one of 35 related chemicals name in a patent granted in 1984 that were shown to be either painkillers or to effect pain receptors in mice, but not humans.

So how does it get to the street?

As we mentioned before, it is either bought online, or the drug dealers themselves get a little bit of info and make their own mini lab to create the stuff. From there, the illegal drugs, such as heroin for example, are either cut with the chemical or sold as the drug itself. This can be extremely dangerous for those using drugs because of the unknowns. Not only that, but often times hospitals don’t know what they are dealing with and neither do the users–should there be an adverse or serious reaction to the substances.

There has been a recent uptick in the use of research chemicals due to the fact that they can sometimes be considered legal (think K2 or Spice) and they are hard to detect on drug tests. Is this the new world of drugs as we know it?

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