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Drug abuse, just ban it !

While watching the evening ITV news I was shocked that an amphetamine like drug is being legally sold in the UK. By chance last week I bought a book on phytochemicals, and I noticed cathinone (Found in khat) looked very similar to amphetamine. The cathinone did not look that interesting and I went to other parts of the book as I wanted to read about things like hypericin which is found in St John’s wort which seems much more interesting to me.

Interesting factoid, St John’s Wort can make oral contraceptive pills much less effective, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14663455.

Before I was even an undergraduate I attended a lecture by the late Dennis Evans on the chemistry of drug misuse, having a good memory for molecules I learned there about the stimulant properties of the 2-amino-1-phenylpropanes and I later discovered about some of the structure activity relationships in that family of drugs.

Cathinone had AMPHETAMINE written all over it when I saw the structure of the molecule, when I saw this new drug of abuse (mephedrone) on the evening news it looked like cathinone with a classic alteration to amphetamine which increases the stimulant effect. It also is going to be slightly more lipophilic than methcathinone which an existing drug of abuse. I suspect that the additional methyl group in mephedrone will make it more likely to do into the brain. The brain is a fatty part of the body.

I think that the home secretary in the UK should ban it as soon as possible by using his powers to add a drug to the misuse of drugs act without a new law being passed.

On the other hand there are some substances which are similar to amphetamine in terms of structure which are not strong stimulants. These include salbutamol the wonder drug for asthma, and pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine (wonder drugs for fixing colds and flu).

I am always quite wary of putting any exotic chemical into my body. Maybe it is because I am a chemist.

I am well aware of some very nasty things which have happened to drug abusers such as those who took “heroin” which turned out to be desmethylprodine (MPPP) which was contaminated with MPTP. MPTP is a nasty neurotoxin which kills off one group of cells in the human brain. Also some other nasty things have popped up in street drugs, for example I have heard of mixtures of LSD and heroin being sold as MDMA (xtc).

The thing is that drugs of abuse are never regulated with regard to purity or size of the dose. This is another good reason never to “do drugs”.

I think that the state has a duty to do its best to protect the public by outlawing drugs of abuse, but at the same time it needs to avoid banning perfectly useful drugs just because it might be possible to “get high”. For example I have read that a vast overdose of salbutamol does cause the same effects as amphetamine does. But it is not a good reason to ban the salbutamol inhaler which so many people need.

I also hold a view that more needs to be done on some “traditional” drugs of abuse (ethanol and nicotine). The use of these drugs by the general public does result in all manner of disease and other adverse effects.

Some of you may have read my disclaimer for experiment experiments, now is my drug abuse disclaimer.

Dr Mark Foreman is very much against the non medical use of drugs and other substances by persons who are trying to become intoxicated. I accept no responsibility for anyone who uses any information from my blog. I also refuse to give out any details here of how to cook street drugs, please do not disturb me with any requests for such information. Also if you have a drug or drink problem I strongly suggest that you should seek professional help (for example go and consult your doctor). If you want to give up smoking then in the UK go and visit a pharmacist’s shop for advice and help.


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