Exploration and desperation: The expanding universe of synthetic drugs

  • But as these shiny packets bear witness, there is also a thriving market for “legal highs”, synthetic alternatives to drugs such as ecstasy or cocaine.
  • According to Fiona Measham, a drug specialist at Durham University, the new highs were particularly appealing to 30-something professionals, such as teachers, who would lose their jobs if found with illegal substances.
  • In the 2010s the rise of the “dark web”, which can be accessed through encrypted browsers such as Tor, made the new synthetic drugs pretty easy to purchase even after the authorities got around to prohibiting them.
  • At first the new drugs were often passed off as MDMA, but they soon came to be sold for what they were and their merits—for mephedrone, a shorter high and a more mellow comedown—appreciated.
  • A 2015 report from the Drug Policy Alliance, an NGO based in New York, found that arrests for synthetic cannabis in Colorado dropped by half when stores selling legal marijuana opened in 2014.

INSIDE a brightly lit shop in Amsterdam half a dozen people inspect the wares. Alongside the bongs, vibrators and heart-shaped key rings in its glass displays are rows of small silver packets emblazoned with names such as “Herbal Speed”, “Trip E” and “Liquid Bliss”.

@TheEconomist: American federal law currently treats fentanyl, which is killing thousands, as less dangerous than marijuana

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Exploration and desperation: The expanding universe of synthetic drugs

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