Internet and new drugs: A challenge for public health

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.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ketamine helps see how the brain works in clinical depression

Jun 16, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- In a new study published in Nature, Lisa Monteggia from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center looks at how the drug ketamine, typically used as an anesthetic or a popular recreational drug f ...

Researchers explore the antidepressant effects of ketamine

Feb 21, 2008

Drug treatments for depression can take many weeks for the beneficial effects to emerge. The excruciating and disabling nature of depression highlights the urgency of developing treatments that act more rapidly. Ketamine, ...

First ever large-scale study of ketamine users published

Nov 16, 2009

The first ever large-scale, longitudinal study of ketamine users has been published online today in the journal Addiction. With Ketamine (K, Special K) use increasing faster than any other drug in the UK (British Crime ...

Study reveals superior sedation method for children

Oct 19, 2010

Procedural sedation and analgesia is an essential element of care for children requiring painful procedures in the emergency department. The practice of combining ketamine and propofol, two common medications used in emergency ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments