Internet and new drugs: A challenge for public health

May 8, 2012

A group of researchers from the IMIM (Hospital del Mar Research Institute) and from the INAD (Hospital del Mar Neuropsychiatry and Addictions Institute) has participated in an international study aiming to give a general overview at a chemical, pharmacological and behavioural level of a recently appeared new chemical compound, according to the Recreational Drugs European Network, as a new abused drug: methoxetamine (MXE).

This new drug, similar to ketamine, is a dissociative drug, meaning it distorts visual and auditory perceptions making one feel separated or "dissociated" from the environment and from oneself, without a . As the researchers explain "It seems to increase the sense of humour and has strong hallucinogenic properties".

The researchers add that "one of the dangers of these new compounds such as MXE is that most of them are not approved for and consuming them could be associated to an unknown number of side effects and adverse reactions that have not been described". Information at a toxicological or pharmacological level as well as on users is nearly nonexistent.

In this sense, these new compounds are becoming more and more sophisticated, are usually synthesized in clandestine laboratories, simply by modifying the of the substances that are already controlled, with the aim of maintaining a lack of regulation for the largest possible time, and are rapidly spread over the Internet.

In the specific case of MXE, it would seem that its toxicity and side effects would be similar to those of ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic used in medicine and veterinary that, when used in sub-anaesthetic doses, leads to a range of effects going from a light , perceptive stimulation or distortion to the appearance of death-like experiences or body splitting. The main difference when comparing MXE to ketamine, however, is that the duration and intensity of these effects are longer lasting.

In the study, researchers have detected that stores selling this drug over the internet, are advertising it and selling it as a legal alternative to ketamine, since it can be purchased legally without needing a veterinary licence and at a better price. This has meant that it has become extremely popular among consumers and has affected the risk perception associated to consumption, given that many consumers associate legality to safety.

The combination of new synthetic abusive drugs and the speed at which information is spread over the Internet have caused the experts' concern for toxicological, pharmacological or public health issues increase. Experts consider it necessary to have a greater collaboration at an international level to tackle this phenomenon consisting of easily accessible psychoactive drugs over the internet, which is growing rapidly at present.

More information: "Phenomenon of new drugs on the Internet: the case of ketamine derivative methoxetamine". Ornella Corazza, Fabrizio Schifano, Pierluigi Simonato, Suzanne Fergus, Sulaf Assi, Jacqueline Stair, John Corkery, Giuseppina Trincas, Paolo Deluca, Zoe Davey, Ursula Blaszko, Zsolt Demetrovics, Jacek Moskalewicz, Magi Farre, Liv Flesland, Manuela Pasinetti, Cinzia Pezzolesi, Agnieszka Pisarska, Harry Shapiro, Holger Siemann, Arvid Skutle, Aurora Enea, Giuditta di Melchiorre, Elias Sferrazza, Marta Torrens, Peer van der Kreeft, Daniela Zummo and Norbert Scherbaum. Hum. Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 2012; 27: 145.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New weapon in the fight against malnutrition

August 4, 2015

UBC scientists have opened the doors to new research into malnutrition by creating an animal model that replicates the imbalance of gut bacteria associated with the difficult-to-treat disease.

Can four fish oil pills a day keep the doctor away?

July 7, 2015

Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the U.S. because of the perceived cardiovascular benefits of the omega-3 it contains. However, scientific findings on its effectiveness have been conflicting. New ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.