Some may recall hearing about Silk Road, the brainchild of start up entrepreneur, Ross Ulbricht, his billion dollar operation peddling illegal drugs from a website he created. Transactions were made using a virtual currency called BitCoin and whatever a buyer wanted was mailed to their address in the vein of Amazon.com. After a lengthy two year investigation Silk Road, the online open drug market was shut down and Ulbricht was found guilty of narcotics charges and money laundering conspiracy.
Disturbingly, websites similar to Silk Road are still up and running. Anyone with a bank account or a credit card number can obtain any kind of high they desire by clicking a mouse. One might ask how this is possible considering the precedence set by the fall of Silk Road. Well, these sites don’t offer or sell illegal drugs.
With graphics of sophisticated professionals wearing lab coats peering into microscopes and holding up test tubes websites such as rechemlabs and lsresearchchems.com invoke an appearance of big time legitimate pharmaceutical companies. They deal in research chemicals, supposedly to be used for research and development and labeled as, “not for human consumption.” Technically these substances aren’t illegal, so they’re unregulated, yet they can produce the same effects that illegal drugs and controlled prescription drugs do. They’re often stronger, so the danger of overdosing is greater. For example, Etizolam, a substance with an effect similar to Ativan and other benzodiazepines has been reported as being ten times as potent as Valium. This particular substance has been available for purchase from rechemlabs.
Many research chemicals have hallucinogenic effects. Some have stimulant or amphetamine-like effects, or one might come across a drug like Bromadol, an opioid 10,000 times stronger than morphine, active in the 1/100 of a milligram range. Needless to say, experimenting with such a substance is a death sentence.
Not so long ago bath salts became a horror story in the news with the bizarre report of a homeless man in Miami eating another man’s face back in 2012. At the time mephedrone, a drug that’s been compared to ecstasy, speed and cocaine, was a typical research chemical sold in stores under the guise of “bath salts.” Now, looking on the internet, there is easy access to an array of chemicals that have the same or a similar effect on people. As fast as law enforcement becomes aware of a new dangerous drug, chemists are tweaking the chemical structures of existing drugs, synthesizing something technically legal that produces the same high.
How can a problem substance that doesn’t exist yet be regulated? How can awareness be raised about drugs that haven’t been created yet, but may be invented tomorrow or the next day? How can this situation be approached? Research chemicals aren’t going away. There is easy money to be made. However, some solutions need to be found or accounts of flesh eating zombies on bath salts and maniacs on alpha-PDP (Flakka) will continue to pop up on the evening news.