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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    In the first part of a special WAtoday investigation, we look at the new designer drugs flooding Perth's streets.

    There is a new breed of drugs on the streets of Perth, and authorities admit they are afraid.

    Police are facing a new evolution in the drug war, as a system of established syndicates is joined by a wave of guerrilla drug manufacturers. These backyard "cooks" are using instructions downloaded from the internet to invent new chemical stimulants that are then flooding a cashed-up market.

    And medical experts fear they have no idea what the fallout will be as the physical and mental health impacts of these new chemical cocktails sink in.

    Forget cocaine, LSD or ecstasy, these new designer drugs contain unidentified combinations of chemicals that have never before been seen or tested. And they now make up almost half of all the drugs on Australian streets.

    Law enforcers are racing to name these new drugs and get them prohibited under legislation. Mutated forms of amphetamines such as benzylpiperazine (BZP) and dimethylamphetamine methcathinone (meow meow) are just the latest to be identified.

    The latest drug seizure statistics from the nation's top crime-fighting body, the Australian Crime Commission, highlight how a trickle of designer substances has swiftly developed into a tsunami.

    The 2008-09 year saw an 1800 per cent surge in drugs listed as "other/unknown" compared to the previous year. This included both unnamed illicit substances and combinations of pharmaceuticals that were being used to create new drugs.

    These nameless "other/unknown" drugs, according to weight, made up 39.9 per cent of all drugs seized in 2008-09, compared to amphetamines and stimulants at 12.3 per cent; cocaine at 4.4 per cent; and heroin at 1.4 per cent.

    Cannabis made up 41.9 per cent, and police say this still makes up the backbone of outlaw motorcycle gangs' drug finances.

    Health experts remain in the dark about the exact repercussions of new designer drugs on the human body. But Royal Perth Hospital emergency medicine Professor Daniel Fatovich said the dangerous side effects observed in well-known chemical drugs gave great cause for concern. For instance, the latest research had shown people in their 20s who had abused amphetamines were ending up with brains that bore scars similar to those inflicted by old age.

    "Young people are acquiring lesions in their brains that are at the same prevalence of people more than double their age," he said.

    "So we're kind of coming around to the view that using amphetamines not only ages you on the outside but it's probably also aging you on the inside."

    One step ahead of the police

    WA Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Anticich said organised crime had recently begun focusing more on the emerging drugs market. He admitted this development was "a huge part of the illicit drug problem" in the state and described the knock-on effects as scary.

    Unlike traditional drugs, many of these chemicals did not come from an organic base, such as poppies or other plants, the effects of which have been tested in early medicinal practices.

    Instead they were altered strains of chemical compounds. This made them exceptionally dangerous to recreational drug-takers, who effectively became guinea pigs to test long-term health impacts and addictive qualities.

    "Under a range of substances there is a fair bit of experimentation, especially with the internet where there is a wealth of knowledge readily available," Mr Anticich said.

    "This other stuff hasn't been tested as to what the long-term consequences will be.

    "This is a generational change since kids are computer savvy and experimentation has always been part of youth culture. With more knowledge widely available on the internet and the world being such a small place, you can invent something overnight and have access to it the next day."

    The criminal element

    At a more sinister level, Mr Anticich said recreational users were at the mercy of organised crime syndicates that raced to manipulate and alter chemically-manufactured drugs in a bid to corner new markets and control the money flow from development to delivery at street level.

    "This about marketing and finding the next buzz," he said. "(For example) MDMA didn't really exist in Australia in any broad (level) in the early '90s. It was only when Indonesian students started coming to Western Australia that we started to see syndicates, like those in the UK and USA, starting to kick up."

    He said since the new drugs were not on the schedule of banned illicit substances - with many of the chemicals being derived from medicines - they provided loopholes for organised crime gangs to avoid prosecution.

    The gangs could create new drugs and a market for them faster than the substances could be identified by authorities and banned.

    "This is a gift from heaven for organised crime as (the gangs) are highly adaptive," Mr Anticich said. "Then they are able to abundantly multiply from there. As we move into the future we will see more and more of that abuse."

    The substance of choice

    Of all the substances available to backyard cooks, methylamphetamine is the substance most commonly mutated to create the next new high.

    WA is already starting to see the effects from the explosion in the methylamphetamine trade, with more than 100 clandestine laboratories raided in WA this year alone.

    Forensic drugs analyst Dominic Reynolds said the methylamphetamine trade was a consequence of the war in Afghanistan, which radically reduced heroin availability.

    He said heroin users simply transferred to methylamphetamines, which were easily and cheaply manufactured from recipes off the internet.

    It meant clandestine laboratories were being set up in backyard sheds and rental properties, using fast-track formulas of explosive and toxic chemicals to create the drugs quickly and cheaply.

    "We've seen a more recent proliferation in the number of these cases, where it is a shorter manufacturing process that uses a complex range of chemicals. As long as you have the precursor pseudoephedrine, which you can buy across the counter, and equipment from a hardware store," Mr Anticich said.

    "It's scary. These new drugs are derived off backyard recipes ripped off the internet which can cause a whole heap of problems."

    Police face the difficult job of balancing legitimate community needs for available pharmaceuticals, such as cold and flu tablets that contain pseudoephedrine, against tough measures needed to target criminals.

    "It's a complex scenario. Our primary role is supply reduction but while demand continues, police have to go beyond just the one role," Mr Anticich said.

    "This is challenging us to try new things... to counter these new emerging drugs coming into existence."

    Aja Styles
    November 22, 2010 - 10:14AM



  1. Terrapinzflyer
    [imgl=white]https://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=17998&stc=1&d=1290406578[/imgl]The Chemical Generation: The real drug story

    Analysts are still in the dark about the ingredients that make up the new wave of designer drugs, writes Aja Styles.

    Designer drugs can be just as addictive and destructive as notorious substances such as heroin, a leading forensic scientist has warned.

    Dr Dominic Reynolds, ChemCentre's illicit drugs section manager, said while drug users were educated enough to see through fear campaigns purporting that drugs contained rat poison and broken glass, the real concern was how serious the drugs themselves were.

    "Because they are totally synthetic, they may be based on existing drugs like methylamphetamine or ecstasy for example, but because certain parts of the molecule themselves have been changed we don't know exactly how it's going to affect (people), both physically and mentally for that matter," he said.

    "We don't know how strong they are, how potent a drug they are, so there's a whole range of unknowns there which, when you combine with people who are taking them for fun, I guess, we don't know what the outcome will be."

    What is known is that the impacts of these drugs are the same as those associated with heroin.

    "The affects are the same," he said. "Certainly within the forensic community, the term 'party drugs' we try to avoid it because it almost trivialises the potential risks with these new drugs."

    The tens of thousands of pills and paper tabs being seized from Perth's streets, purporting to be ecstasy and LSD, are proving to contain immeasurably dangerous chemical cocktails.

    "Ecstasy in itself is getting harder to get a hold of. The purity of ecstasy tablets that do contain MDMA has also dropped over the last five years or so," Dr Reynolds said.

    "There's more and more coming through that don't have any MDMA in them and they can be combinations of other drugs. For example, BZP is one that we see very commonly and in combination (with) another drug called TFMPP. The combination of those two is said to mimic the affects of MDMA.

    "But we're also seeing things at the moment like methlyamphetamine in tablet form, which is marketed as ecstasy, things like ketamine (a horse tranquiliser) we've seen in the past, and newer drugs such as cathanones, which is methylmethcathanone (meow meow).

    "Then there's a number of drugs that are new to Australia, which haven't been seen before anywhere."

    BZP is a derivative of methylamphetamine, while meow meow is a synthesized version of the drug found in khat tree plants, which is considered an African version of cannabis but requires up to two kilograms of the plants to get high, according to police.

    Currently methylamphetamine makes up about 90 per cent of all WA's drug seizures, however designer drugs are on the rise and it was only a matter of time before drug-induced hospitalisations became more apparent, Dr Reynolds said.

    "I know there's been occasions, certainly in UK and recently in Darwin, where at a party people were taking drugs they thought were one kind of drug which turned out to be something new. A number of them have been taken to hospital with these side effects," he said.

    The possible signs and symptoms of these drugs would likely include psychosis and paranoia, with a more aggressive form of paranoia commonly associated with amphetamine-type drugs.

    Drug Profiling

    Each of the new synthetic drugs seized contain clues as to their origins. Perth's ChemCentre seeks to profile each pill and powder like a DNA fingerprint to help police track the batches and quantities of drugs coming into Western Australia.

    Dr Reynolds said with the help of international drug enforcement networks, the centre had already traced some of the new designer drugs to parts of Europe and Israel.

    "It is challenging but we are in contact with chemists across the country and in other parts of the world as well" he said. "So we do have people we can call upon that may have seen them before, but if it's an entirely new drug we have to analyse it from the ground up."

    Currently heroin and cocaine can be traced back to the country of manufacture and certain crime groups, while the supply chain of synthetic drugs like methylamphetamine have tell-tale structures linking the batches, which then links to specific "cooks".

    Organised crime Detective Superintendent Charlie Carver said while the database provided intelligence to police, they were still reliant on people giving up the sources of their drugs once they faced prosecution.

    "It doesn't give you the magic bullet to solve it because it is very difficult to work in the drug scene to solve drug crime," he said.

    "Most of the drug dealers try to take steps to distance themselves from: one, the money; and two, the drugs; and they use people who are vulnerable to do their bidding for them. If they get caught then they obviously distance themselves from that prosecution side."

    He said the only real difference would come when people stopped seeing drug use as socially acceptable.

    "It is not until we get to that pivot point, that turning point somewhere down the track, whenever that might be, when the harm factor starts to really kick in that we'll realise this is not sociably acceptable," he said.

    For 24-hour support from qualified counsellors contact the Alcohol and Drug Information service on 9442 5000, or 1800 198 024 for those in country WA.

    Aja Styles
    November 22, 2010 - 7:24AM
  2. squeezix
    I'm sick of this talk by cops about Olney's lesions. Biggest scare tactic fallacy spread to the generation below swim. His woman, a former meth addict as convinced herself that there's holes in her brain. She's finally starting to understand that there are not the longer she stays clean.
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