New party drug may be coming to P.G. Just because it's legal doesn't make it safe. New party pills are showing up on the Canadian late-night scene, and authorities have no laws to stop them - yet. There are attempts underway to make them illegal but the company behind the pills - Purepillz - is arguing that they are not addictive and they could act as a safer alternative to black market drugs.
They are most common in Toronto, but this week Purepillz was in Vancouver at the Taboo Sex Show marketing their wares. They were trying to attract B.C. retail stores to sell their "social tonic" pills, which go by names like Freq, Peaq, Rush and Flow.
"It is an uphill battle in the east but in the west there seems to be more open-mindedness that hey, things aren't working here, addiction is running wild, so lets do something to help stop that," said Adam Wookey, spokesman for Purepillz told The Citizen. "The Controlled Drugs and Substances people at Health Canada seem very open minded but the main body of Health Canada seems to have a political agenda, so it may not be a Health Canada thing at all, it might be an agenda from the politicians over the scientists and drug experts. They want to put a stigma on this, they aren't interested in seeing harm reduction. You've got to wonder why BZP is being targeted."
BZP is short for benzylpiperazine, one of the active ingredients in the so-far legal drugs. Another main component is 3-trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (3-TFMPP). In different combinations these pills basically cause prolonged energy bursts and hallucinations. They are frequently used by people who want to enhance their clubbing and partying experiences, or boost their sexual experience.
Health Canada issued an official warning to consumers claiming that these pills may pose serious health risks.
"When BZP and TFMPP are taken together and in high doses they have been reported to cause hallucinations, convulsions and slowed breathing," said the statement. "Health Canada is carrying out an assessment to determine whether it would be appropriate for these substances to be regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Health Canada has repeatedly asked Purepillz to remove these products from the market. The company has not complied and therefore Health Canada is taking enforcement action."
All they can do is seized the product, said Wookey, so the company has diverted much of its sales to the internet.
He said he believed Canadians who want to take non-addictive drugs to have a good time ought to be allowed, and if Health Canada wants to test the effects the company would not only welcome that but encouraged any scientific research body in Canada to take their products on as a project. The benefits could literally be the mass saving of lives, Wookey said, when recreational drug users opt for their stuff instead of the black market mind melters like crystal methamphetamines or ecstasy (which often comes loaded with meth anyway).
"That is an interesting marketing strategy," said Dr. Lawrence Fredeen, a Northern Health specialist in drug reduction programs, including methadone supplements for heroin addicts. "Anytime you are targeting teenagers and saying you'll get the same effect with less harm, that is a pretty dangerous message to put across, as is the very idea that you should take something mind-altering to have a good time.
"In high enough doses, any drug can inflict harm," Fredeen said. "It doesn't have to be addictive to be bad for you. May drugs are abused that are not addictive. Mushrooms, mescaline, a lot of the drugs used for sniffing like glues can give you significant hallucinations and we don't see a pattern of addiction to those. We see patterns of abuse, however. They can cause significant amounts of damage and permanent cognitive damage to the brain."
Fredeen also warned that even if these drugs do not induce physical addiction, there is a very strong danger of psychological addiction.
Veteran addictions counsellor Andrew Burton agreed that this is the trap these so-called legal drug alternatives pose.
"I'll use alcohol as an example because it has a little less stigma," Burton said. "You have people who drink and have no problems and those who drink and do have problems. What is the purpose of taking that drink? What is it that you're seeking? Where are you coming from initially? If you're someone who is trying to open the doors of perception, they may be able to use this stuff without too much trouble, but if you have emotional or psychological problems to begin with, this is not going to help. When you deal with people who use substances to moderate their feelings or thoughts - 'if I do this drug I can avoid thinking about this or that' or 'if I do this drug I'll feel better about fitting in' - that is not a matter of if that's going to be a problem, that is a matter of when that is going to become a problem. Your perception of reality had better be pretty stable to begin with."
Wookey said it was company policy to ask questions of prospective customers to ensure they were selling only to people who would use their pills for good times not as a psychological crutch.
"The hell they do," Burton said. "You know the guy's not being genuine when he comes up with stuff like that. They are doing this to make money."
Fredeen said "People producing these drugs always try to stay one step ahead of the regulations. There are several examples of this, particularly in the States where you get one drug that is banned but they market the precursor chemicals and outsmart the system that way, but it still amounts to drug abuse."
While British Columbia police have not yet encountered these Purepillz products they are bracing for it.
"These are not pharmaceutical-grade pills; there are no quality controls," said Cpl. Richard De Jong, of RCMP E-Division's drug and organized crime awareness service. "Anytime the Canadian public is using a drug of a mood altering nature, we are concerned. And these drugs do have negative effects and out east it is believed to have contributed to a death. It was banned in the U.S. in 2002 and other countries have gotten on board. Health Canada is looking at having it banned for unregulated use in Canada, too, under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act."
These drugs stress out the cardiovascular system, tax neurological systems and there is little science to understand exactly what all the effects are. Until that is known, he said, it is not safe for anyone to take.
Wookey said Purepillz would go on selling the pills as long as they were allowed to by law, and they hoped science would soon back up their claims that these drugs were better for you and better for society than the stuff being secretly sold against the law.
Written by FRANK PEEBLES
Monday, 19 January 2009