terça-feira, 1 de maio de 2018


TWO STREET DRUGS: ANGEL DUST AND FENTANYL. Fredric M. Menger, Department of Chemistry, Emory University Atlanta, GA USA

I should begin by disclosing that I personally have never ingested, injected, snorted, or smoked angel dust or any other street drug. There are two main reasons for this. First, the drugs are illegal. Among the over 2 million people in U.S. jails or prisons, nearly half are serving time for drug offenses. Second, street drugs are dangerous as seen from the fact that 60,000 people in U.S. died last year from overdosing an illegal drug. The story of phencyclidine (also called PCP or “angel dust”, draw below), as I am about to tell, further illustrates the dangers of street drugs sold on the street.

As of 2017 about 2.9% of those over the age of 25 reported using PCP at some point in their life. Typically, a solution of PCP is sprayed onto a leafy material, such as tobacco or parsley, and smoked. Symptoms of PCP use include delusions, amnesia, euphoria, paranoia, and unpredictable mood changes. Users report feeling detached from reality. PCP originally appeared on the scene in the 1950s as a legal anesthetic, but it was declared illegal for human use in 1965 due to its high rates of side effects. Over two dozen “PCP analogs” have been reported on the streets. (“PCP analogs” refer to PCP with small changes in structure, such as an additional methyl group). Law enforement cannot convict anyone selling a new compound that has not been specifically outlawed, leading to the popularity of so-called “designer drugs”. Men and women with a chemical bent are hard at work synthesizing new designer drugs to be sold before the government has had a chance to identify and criminalize them. Of course, the toxicity and other physiological effects of designer drugs are usually unknown to both the buyer and seller.

Although the recreational use of PCP has declined in recent years, there was an incident in the past that is particularly instructive. Thus, the medical community in Southern California was once was baffled by the sudden appearance of patients with Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms, particularly violent shaking followed ultimately by death. Doctors were amazed by the extreme severity of the shaking and, especially, the youth of the patients. Parkinson’s disease normally affects older people, but in this case the victims were in their early twenties. The mystery was eventually solved when authorities raided the basement laboratory in the home of a man making angel dust. They discovered that that one of the reactions had been overheated (the man was not a very good organic chemist), thereby creating an impurity later found to induce Parkinson’s disease symptoms in laboratory animals. Thus, it was not the angel dust itself that caused the problem, but rather an impurity mixed in with it. The incident demonstrates how dangerous it can be to trust street drugs. After all, the purchasers seldom, if ever, are aware of the manuactuer’s chemical skills or, indeed, whether dangerous additives (the poison strychnine, for example) might have been deliberately added to accentuate the physiological effect. You can imagine that the health and safety of customers is not foremost on the minds of most drug dealers.

Many of the overdoses in U.S., mentioned earlier, are due to a drug named fentanyl (drawn below) to which 20,000 deaths per year are attributed.

Fentanyl is a so-called synthetic “opioid” because it acts on the same brain receptors that respond to opium-derived morphine (except that fentanyl is 75 times stronger than morphine). Fentanyl is an important pain killer in modern medicine. When used as a recreational drug, however, it can be mixed with heroin or cocaine usually in amounts unknown to the user. Death often ensues.

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário