Author Topic: Scientists race to understand the neurochemistry behind new street drugs  (Read 1106 times)

Offline Chip (OP)

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source: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acscentsci.6b00160

Designer Drug Detective Work

Scientists race to understand the neurochemistry behind new street drugs

On an unseasonably warm spring morning in his office in Baltimore, neurochemist Michael H. Baumann eagerly flipped through a spreadsheet. It listed hundreds of chemical names of suspected drugs seized by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies over the past three years. “When police bust people with some white powder or a baggie full of pot-looking material, it gets sent to forensic laboratories, and they test what’s in it”, he says. All that data gets dumped into a database catalogued by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Baumann asks for a rundown of what’s been found.

That rundown provides Baumann, head of the Designer Drug Research Unit at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), with a guide to the ever-changing world of designer drugs. As of December 2014, 541 new psychoactive substances—the preferred term for synthetic designer drugs—had been reported. And it’s reasonable to think that the number is higher now.


Many synthetic designer drugs are sold semilegally online with a wide array of names and labels

The drugs, often sold in stores and on the internet as innocuous-sounding “spice” or “bath salts”, are designed to mimic the physiological actions of well-characterized drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, and heroin. “They are psychoactive drugs sold under false pretenses, often as household products”, Baumann says. “This is purely to skirt regulation”. Because these synthetic drugs are chemically distinct from controlled substances, they can be bought and sold in a quasilegal market existing largely on the internet.

Baumann, along with four other scientists in the unit, examines the neurochemistry of these emerging psychoactive substances. The scientists focus mainly on compounds being sold in large volumes or linked to deaths. They try to determine what these molecules do in the brain to get users high. His team’s findings provide valuable information to forensic toxicologists and policymakers involved with the growing problem of designer drugs.

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« Last Edit: July 13, 2016, 10:02:14 AM by chipper »
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