Friday, August 20, 2010

Drugs, Soap, and Rock and Roll

There's always something new, even in the world of substance abuse. Lately I've been reading a lot in the media about K2, a synthetic cannabinoid that's being sold (and outlawed) in many states. It's commonly mixed with herbal incense and smoked. Nicknamed "spice", it was originally created by scientists and called JWH-018. Apparently some states' poison control centers have been getting calls about it due to the physical symptoms it can cause, specifically palpitations and GI problems. The part of the story that I thought was interesting was the fact that originally only 250 milligrams of the stuff was created, in an "official" research lab, but that home chemists quickly took up the experiment and it's now a part of our national drug culture. There's a part of our drug problem we need to think about---should research labs be allowed to disseminate information about how to manufacture controlled or intoxicating substances? Drug control efforts almost completely focus on those who possess, prescribe or sell pharmaceuticals but you don't hear much about the regulation of research labs that invent the new stuff. Federal and state drug enforcement agencies mainly target "home chemists" by pressuring retailers to make certain chemicals less easily available----fertilizer and pseudoephedrine for example.

I'm a bit of a home chemist myself, since I occasionally whip together batches of homemade soap. In order to make soap you have to mix oils with lye. What I didn't know was that lye is also used to make methamphetamine. My hobby took a hit when when the makers of Red Devil lye decided to pull their product off the shelves, due to government pressure. Talk about a stir in the soap makers world! It eventually came back to the market, but in a form that's no longer good for soap. Or for drugs either, presumably.