A Dangerous Trend in Designer Drugs

There have been three recent fatalities from a new designer drug being popularized at dance parties.  Last week, two young adults died in New York and a teenager died in Boston after overdosing on a new form of 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine.  MDMA, also known as “ecstasy,” can create a sense of euphoria and lack of inhibition, making it popular at concerts and raves.  The new form of MDMA, called “Mandy” in the U.K. and “Molly” in the U.S., is a purer form of the drug.

Because MDMA is illegal in most countries, there is no regulatory control over its manufacture and distribution.  Users have no idea how pure their sample may be or what dosage to take.  Other substances are often added to make the drug more or less potent.  In 2008, the UN estimated that 10 to 25 million people around the world had used MDMA at least once in the past year.

Researchers in Brazil recently used an Agilent GC/MS to analyze 150 different samples of ecstasy taken during police seizures.  MDMA was present in less than half of the analyzed samples.  In addition, 20 other active substances were identified, including caffeine, 2C-B, piperazines, amphetamines, phencyclidine and methamphetamine.  These additives can severely increase the drug’s effects and are often toxic themselves.

Researchers in South Wales used an Agilent GC/MS to test 119 samples of mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone), a similar designer drug.  Purity ranged anywhere from 33 percent to 80 percent.  Some samples were found to be diluted and weakened with monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sucrose.

These findings indicate a wide variability in drug composition, which may lead to an increased risk of drug poisoning.

Agilent offers a wide variety of applications related to the detection and identification of designer drugs and other illicit substances.  Agilent solutions are used for drug testing in major sporting events, as well as by food, drug and law enforcement agencies around the world.

This information is for research purposes only.  It is not intended for any use in diagnostic procedures.

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