By: Jack Thorndike, NARK News
All of our most popular original controlled substances came from plant materials. These included: poppies to heroin; coca plants to cocaine; and marijuana plants for THC. All of these substances proved easy to legislate since you couldn’t alter opiates, cocaine or THC.
This scene changed with the introduction of synthetics. Going back almost twenty years we saw the introduction of our first popular synthetic, methamphetamine. This quickly followed with the introduction of MDMA (Ecstasy) from Europe. A number of years went by before the latest synthetics were brought forward, synthetic cannabinoids (K2, spice) and synthetic stimulants (bath salts).
What is different from the natural to the synthetic substances? The natural group contained the substance in the plant material. In the case of opiates and cocaine it required chemistry to refine the substance for use, but the product itself was obtained from a natural source. In the case of the
synthetics, the entire process was done in a laboratory using chemistry. This significant difference is what creates all of the problems today in determining what you have and what chemical formulation.
The two terms most commonly used with synthetics and ones you must understand are precursor and analog. By definition the two words are described as follows:
Precursor: One that precedes and indicates or announces someone or something to come.
Analog: A structural derivative of a parent compound. Dealing with our first synthetic substance, everyone is accustomed to the word precursor. We know that in order to manufacture
methamphetamine, we must first start with either ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (announces
something to come). It is a synthetic substance since we use no base natural product. In the case of methamphetamine we are converting the chemical structure of these precursors into a new chemical structure.
In the case of all of the remaining synthetics, we start with base formulas and make a specific formula of that synthetic substance; MDMA; cannabinoids; or stimulants.
To best describe synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants we have set out the following FAQ section to help with these Substances:
Stimulants (Bath Salts)
Q. What are bath salts?
A. A street name only for synthetic stimulants sometimes referred to as either synthetic cocaine or methamphetamine.
Q. What is a synthetic substance?
A. A substance that is made from a chemistry set.
Q. Why use the name “bath salts”?
A. In order to sell the product over the counter as an innocuous product.
Q. Are there other “street names” associated with synthetic stimulants?
A. Yes, similarly to “bath salts” which are sold in foil packages or small round plastic containers, these same containers may be known as; plant feed; screen cleaner; or glass cleaner. Recently the product has also transformed into being sold in bindles (small paper bundles folded into a closure) which they commonly refer to as “mollies”.
Q. What form do synthetic stimulants take?
A. Usually a white to light tan powder.
Q. How is the substance used?
A. The most common method is to snort, however, it can also be injected, swallowed or smoked.
Q. How long does the high last?
A. Usually between 3 to 6 hours. However, the true dangers are some of the after effects of the substance.
Q. What do the references to MDPV, Methylone and Mephedrone refer to?
A. Being a synthetic substance, there is no one specific formulation. You can make multiple formulations depending on the precursors you start with. From there, you can make any number of additional formulations (referred to as analogs) which require the slightest change in any of the original formulas. However, all of these analog formulas can be traced back to one of the three original substance bases of MDPV, Methylone or Mephedrone.
Q. Has DEA and the Federal Government reacted to synthetic stimulants?
A. Yes, on October 21st, 2011, the DEA passed emergency legislation making the synthetic stimulants of MDPV, Methylone and Mephedrone a Schedule 1 substance under the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA).
Q. How does the federal scheduling effect state and local jurisdictions?
A. It doesn’t. All the federal statute means is it is against the “federal law” to buy, possess or sell any other synthetic stimulants. Each specific state within the country would still need to address synthetic stimulants in their own CSA in order for law enforcement to charge for this substance.
Q. Is one base formulation of these stimulants more popular than another?
A. Yes. Currently almost 80% of the synthetic stimulants on the street are based on the MDPV or Methylone formulations. The remaining ones are based on the Mephedrone product.
Q. Is there currently an approved field test for the synthetic stimulants?
A. Yes. Unlike the “natural products” where it is simple to identify the specific substance to color react, these multiple formulations make it necessary to offer two (2) specific field tests to properly determine the substance. In most instances officers will only need to use one (1) of these tests to determine if they in fact have a synthetic stimulant. Officers should use the #NARK20024
MDPV-Methylone Reagent initially. If the officer receives a distinct Yellow or Yellow/Green color reaction immediately, stop testing. You have presumptively identified one of two substances, MDPV or Methylone. If the color reaction within the MDPV/Methylone Reagent was either Clear or any other color (not Yellow or Yellow/ Green), proceed to the #NARK20025
Mephedrone Reagent. This is a two (2) ampoule field test. The color developed after breakage and agitation of the 1st ampoule can be disregarded. The breakage and agitation of the 2nd
ampoule will develop an immediate Purple color. This reaction will presumptively identify the base substance of Mephedrone.
Q. Was independent testing conducted on the “Bath Salt Reagents” prior to their release?
A. Yes. Both tests were submitted to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Division of Forensic Science (DFS) for testing. The Virginia DFS was chosen because not only do we receive written confirmation the field tests passed their testing, but they also publish the results in the Virginia Registry. This registry is designed to announce to all law enforcement in Virginia that specific presumptive field tests have been tested and passed. No field test can be utilized to bind through preliminary hearings until DFS has conducted their independent testing.
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