A recent discussion with some of my neuropharmacology colleagues led me to go back through the cobwebs and revisit the Terra Sig archives for posts on drugs of abuse. The following was my third post ever and the first on actual scientific substance (the first two were introductions: a hello post and an explanation of what the heck Terra Sigillata actually is).
The following post appeared at the Blogspot home of Terra Sigillata on 26 December 2005.
Let me start by saying that the draconian US laws in the ‘war against drugs’ would ever prevent the following from happening here:
Sounds like a good thing to me: your kid is at a rave party and wants to experiment with some substance that you took blindly 30 years ago without thinking about twice. Fortunately, the party has a booth staffed by a staff of profs and grad students who are willing to anonymously run a sample of your stash through a Bio-Rad HPLC that has a library of comparative chromatograms for over 1000 psychoactive compounds.
Lucky for you, your kid’s dope is proper MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) but his buddy’s has paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMA), a compound that induces vomiting and potentially life-threatening hyperthermia. The lab gang notifies the DJ that some bad stuff is circulating, they drop the music a tad, and DJ Funkmaster Phenylethylamine tells folks the appearance of the dosage form (color, size, markings) to look out for.
Such is the case for University of Vienna prof, Ranier Schmid, as reported by John Bohannon of The Scientist. His is part of an amazing drug outreach program to promote safe use of illicit substances to those “who don’t consider themselves drug users at all.”
In South Australia, a similar group has been stopped from similar on-site analytical chemistry here.
I’ll rave (as it were) on these pages about the poor quality control of herbal medicines, yet here is a group of profs and grad students FUNDED to assess your stash in the 15 min it takes to run the Bio-Rad REMEDi HPLC system. Yeah, yeah, my analytical chemistry colleagues will aruge that HPLC is nothing without corresponding MS analysis, but I’ve got to applaud the Schmid group for attempting to help out on a real-time basis. Not something you’ll see on the Bio-Rad website, but certainly a useful public service.
This is also where we face a fight in the US: do we let adolescent/young adults use drugs deemed ‘illegal,’ or do we help them do so in a safe environment? After all, notification of the contents of a certain dosage form deems it acceptable…right? The right would have you think that any illicit drug use is punishable by the electric chair (or at least a decade in prison); whereas most reasonable folks take a view that if their kids do drugs, they do so in a responsible fashion, certainly more responsible than when they were kids. Are alcohol and tobacco better?
Certainly something to ponder as I drink my wine and puff on my Phillies cigar to commemorate what would be my grandfather’s 101st birthday.