Rave drug testing - public benefit?

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.

Comments welcome...

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*sigh* I'd been saving my allowance for a Bio-Rad 1000 Series Thermal Cycling Platform after seeing the awesomez _Scientists for Better PCR_ video, but now I need an HPLC too?

I fall into that "responsible user" category - once or twice a year over the last 15 years or so. I'm otherwise a responsible adult who doesn't really seem the sort. I've been a longtime supporter of DanceSafe.org, a harm-reduction focused organization with a particular interest in dance/rave drugs. They sell an inexpensive kit ($50) with three reagents that detect the presence of MDMA as well as common adulterants. It's modestly annoying (you need to scrape three samples off a given tablet) and is best performed in reasonable light, but it makes me more comfortable about the work of amateur pharmaceutical manufacturing without a GMP in place. ;0)

By Synapse Twiddler (not verified) on 28 May 2009 #permalink

You'd probably have to do a lot quicker than fifteen minutes and that isn't possible. A lot of people show up at raves and, if the testing became popular and somehow safe from police raids, Bio-Radding would in theory have high demand. However, the majority of ravers probably don't want to spare fifteen minutes for testing plus fifteen more (or longer) to wait in line to test, all just to be certain that their ecstasy is safe. They're more likely just gonna walk off, pop it and go do what they came to do: party.

"DJ Funkmaster Phenylethylamine" - is (s)he related to the Chemical Brothers?

The scenario you propose would be far too rational for the United States. I think helping people to be more responsible, even if they're doing something illegal, is a good idea. I recall that in the early 2000's in San Franciso, DanceSafe would set up tables at raves, etc and give out info on drug effects, answer questions and test your pills (though not with an HPLC). They were eventually barred from doing this because they "promoted drug use."

Now that I've filed an IMPD, there is no way I would take a street drug - I'd be thinking "Where's your CofA? Can I see the stability data? Did you do an excipient compatability study before you began formulation?"

@Keith B

I agree totally with you. Ravers are in parties to have fun and don't take the time to ask themselves, if the drug there are going to take is safe or not. It's a very stupid behaviour but it's unfortunately in most cases like that!

I Tried Trip2night for the first time last night around 9:30 pm. I started to feel effects around 11pm, effects lasted around 5 hours or more. Some of the effects were energy, dizziness, strong buzz like effects, euphoric feelings, happy, silly, and energy to dance all night long. The product made me horny, although that usually doesnât take much.

I bought the product from narcomundo.com. The product came in a powder form with directions to add 1 scoop to fruit juice. I still have a lot left over for next week. For the amount I took; I think I will get around 9 servings out of one pack; although it says 20 servings on the directions.