Street drug update: K2, ecstasy

July 10, 2010, 2:12 pm

The New York Times has a  good article today summarizing the current legal situation in the United States involving “synthetic marijuana” products such as K2 and “Spice”. K2 consists of herbal mixtures laced with research chemicals that act as specific agonists at cannibinoid-1 receptors. These mixtures are sold openly at head shops and convenience stores, often labelled as “incense” or “room freshener”. Emergency departments have been seeing increased numbers of patients exposed to these mixtures. Presentation often includes tachycardia, agitation, anxiety, and nausea.  Effects typically last about four hours. Recently, the death of an Iowa teenager was attributed to K2.

This week,  Governor Jay Nixon (D) signed a law making Missouri the eighth state to ban K2. Although the Times article does not get granular on the issue, the specific substance banned was probably JWH-018, one of the synthetic CR-1 agonists synthesized at Clemson University in the 1990s.  Unfortunately, other similar chemicals exist that can be easily substituted to evade the ban.

In another news story, KTVU in Oakland reports that the toxicology report on one of the two persons who died over memorial day weekend following a large rave event at the Cow Palace revealed that the only drug found in his system was ecstasy (MDMA).  Although initially public health officials had assumed that since a large number of victims became very severely ill at the event, MDMA must have been adulterated with an even more toxic substance.  TPR was skeptical about this assumption from the beginning, pointing out that all the manifestations seen in these victims — hyperthermia, rhabdomyolysis, hepatic failure, DIC, hemorrhage — could certainly be caused by MDMA alone.

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