They used to be referred to more often as designer drugs. Now they are referred to in the communities that traffic in them as research chemicals.
The research drug that has made the most headlines recently is U-47700. It is an analog to the powerful opiate named fentanyl. Many people have heard of fentanyl as the drug that killed Michael Jackson and more recently the singer Prince.
Research chemicals cover the broad spectrum of analogs to illegal or prescription drugs. Visitors to these websites can purchase analogs to Adderall, Xanax, Vicodin and strong opiates. Then there are sites that sell analogs to psychedelic drugs such as LSD or MDMA.
State legislatures around the country are rushing to keep the latest research chemicals on the banned list in their state statues. But only a handful of states have banned any of the substances. Most of the states that have banned any research chemicals are focusing mainly on the opiate analogs.
Research chemicals survive in a large gray area.
Many of the websites that sell these chemicals state that their products are not for human consumption. This gives them the legal cover they need to continue to distribute the chemicals in a legal gray area.
Emergency rooms around the country are often baffled when patients arrive overdosing on research chemicals. They don’t have a way to test for many of these chemicals so if the patient is unresponsive it is difficult to treat them correctly.
Many of the sites accept credit cards or cash orders but offer huge discounts to customers paying with Bitcoin. Or some sites are using coded e-commerce sites to process their orders.
However, I can imagine if the deaths and overdoses start to draw more headlines state legislatures will begin to pass very broadly worded bills. They will do this in an attempt to get out in front of this growing epidemic.
But in reality, it is likely that the research chemical producers will likely continue to stay one step ahead of authorities just as they have been doing for over a decade. And now they have the cloak provided by technology to continue production and distribution in private.
The scariest thing is that these producers are not regulated in any way. So some have been known to send out batches of their research chemicals that are either far weaker than advertised or far more potent than advertised.
And that is how many of the deaths and overdoses are taking place. The users think they are taking their normal dose when in reality they are taking 3x their normal dose.