30 May 2012

Breaking Bad

Clever chemists can create designer drugs far more quickly than a government's drug enforcement agency can identify them, get them classified as illegal drugs, and begin to control their illegal distribution.
“Manufacturers turn these things around so quickly. One week you’ll have a product with compound X, the next week it’s compound Y,” said forensic toxicologist Kevin Shanks of AIT Laboratories, an Indiana-based chemical testing company.

“It’s fascinating how fast it can occur, and it’s fascinating to see the minute changes in chemical structure they’ll come up with. It’s similar, but it’s different,” Shanks continued. _Wired
Some of these drugs are very dangerous to particular persons who may use them, or be around others who are using them. Others may be generally benign -- but government agencies and their evolving penalties for sale and use of these designer drugs, are unlikely to be able to distinguish between the bad and the indifferent. Likely result: A lot more people in prison for questionable offenses.
via Wired

Fattore, whose research specialty is cannabinoids and the new wave of THC mimics, says the new drugs often contain unpredictable mixes of these extra-potent compounds. The same goes for synthetic stimulants and dissociatives.

In a May 14 Journal of Analytical Toxicology study, Shanks’ team described AIT’s tests of legal drugs purchased since the Drug Enforcement Agency’s 2010 bans of three synthetic stimulants and five synthetic cannabinoids.

A full 95 percent of the products contained compounds not covered by the law. They’d been subtly tweaked so as to possess a different, legal molecular form while performing the same psychopharmaceutical role.

“If you want any evidence that drugs have won the drug war, you just need to read the scientific studies on legal highs,” wrote Vaughan Bell at MindHacks, a neuroscience blog that’s covered legal highs in depth.

While it’s conceivable that laws could be adjusted to reflect each new ingredient, it would be highly impractical: Between 400 and 450 compounds were synthesized by Huffman alone, and those represent just one of four major groups of cannabinoid mimics.

Stimulant and dissociative derivatives are less numerous, the portfolio of possible derivatives still includes hundreds of forms. A compound-by-compound pursuit could last for decades. _Wired
Why do chemists go to so much trouble to generate such a wide range of designer drugs, when most of them are likely to be crap? Because a lot of people will do almost anything to get high, and governments have made it a criminal offense to get high on relatively safe drugs.

You know where all of this is going to lead? Gene-engineered food plants that produce opium, cocaine, hashish, and any number of other potent drugs -- inside beans, cucumbers, and potatoes.... Try regulating that!

Of course we are likely to move quickly to more refined types if "highs" such as electromagnetic brain stimulators, intense high resolution virtual realities, and other ways to generate thrills, chills, and unimaginable pleasures, which will ride the photons far beyond the control of drug enforcers.

People want to get high. Other people will bend or break the rules to help them, for a price. The profits from the breaking of the rules make their way back to drug enforcers, judges, lawyers, elected officials, respected bankers, etc. In fact, societies that try too hard to regulate every action of their citizens end up being corrupted, perhaps beyond repair. It is such societies as a whole that are breaking bad.

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Blogger Eric said...

People are already trying to use 3d printers to create drugs - being able to manufacture medicine without relying on a centralized system has always been a serious hurdle to becoming resilient. The systems we have now could be used to create some of the cancer drugs that are needed but are not profitable for larger factory pharma companies.


Wednesday, 30 May, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. An interesting line of research.

3d printers as they exist are much better for prototyping than they are for large scale manufacture. And it is in the economy of scale from mass production that economic benefits accrue to societies most quickly overall.

Of course 3d printers will get better, and an infrastructure for providing the various substrate "inks" will grow up which will utilise economies of scale in their own production methods.

The possibilities are incredibly vast, as the researchers in the video hinted. If I were the security chief of a country or a large corporation, I would certainly be worried at some of the possibilities unintentionally revealed by the Glasgow researchers.

Because it is clear that clever inventions and processes can be put to many uses, often not the ones that the originators intended.

But that is all the more reason for people who think on a larger scale to work harder to anticipate as many disruptions -- constructive and destructive -- as possible.

Thursday, 31 May, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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