Synthetic drugs may be the new trend in getting high that parents, law enforcement agents and lawmakers need to be worried about. From the synthetic marijuana products that came out several years ago packaged to look like incense or potpourri, to the newest drugs coming from China and Europe, these laboratory-manufactured substances pose a real public health problem. A young man in Australia recently jumped to his death after taking what may be the newest synthetic to hit the black market: LSD.
A Death in Australia
The 17-year-old boy in Australia died when he took off his clothes and jumped off the balcony of his family’s home. The substance he took put him in a psychotic state, which explains his actions. He bought the drug from a school friend who had purchased it online. The young man thought he was taking LSD, but it turns out to have been a synthetic replica. Just after admitting to his mother that he had taken something and telling her that he thought he could fly, he went off the balcony. She was unable to stop him.
The teen fell from the third-story balcony in front of his mother and younger sister and died from massive injuries to his head. His parents described him as a smart and studious boy, and they never suspected drug use in the past. The schoolmate who sold the drug to him will be charged with dealing.
While in the United States we have seen synthetic marijuana as well as some other synthetic drugs, a drug that mimics LSD is relatively new. Police in Australia commented after the teen’s death that they are beginning to see more and more of this product, especially in the hands of teens. In particular, they see the teens who are otherwise good students and who do not get into trouble using this new drug. That it can be sold legally online may be giving teens a false sense that it is safe to experiment with.
Another worrying aspect of synthetic LSD is that, at least in Australia, it can be bought for $1 to $2 per hit. The price and the easy access to the drug online mean that this substance could quickly become a real danger to young people. Another concern when it comes to any synthetic substances is that the user never really knows what chemicals it contains. While it is being sold as LSD or an LSD substitute, the drug shipped to the buyer could be anything.
Synthetic Hallucinogens in the United States
Compounds that mimic hallucinogens like LSD have been seen in the U.S., but they are a relatively new addition to the synthetic drug marketplace. One high-profile case involved the death of an 18-year-old man in North Dakota after taking an analogue of LSD. Several people were convicted of selling the drug from a ring in Houston. Federal law in the U.S. on synthetic drugs allows prosecutors to target such analogues, or chemicals, that are designed to mimic known drugs.
Although drugs that are produced and sold in the U.S. pose a problem, cheaper synthetics coming from abroad could lead to even more trouble. The drug that caused the Australian teen to leap to his death was bought cheaply online and came from China. Officials worry that this type of inexpensive import may be headed to the U.S. market if it is not already here.
Even with known synthetic substances being successfully targeted by prosecutors, new ones pop up all the time. Even though anyone selling analogues can be prosecuted by federal law, their production hasn’t stopped. The synthetics change rapidly, and sometimes a drug is not close enough to be considered an analogue. This is what happened recently when a charge of drug trafficking was dismissed in the case of a new synthetic LSD from Europe. The defense successfully argued that it was not close enough to be considered LSD based on lab results.
While the law tries to keep up, we can expect to see the production and distribution of new synthetic drugs. We can also expect these drugs to continue to be targeted at young people because of their accessibility and affordability. The best defense against the tragic teen deaths from these substances is education. As more people become aware of the drugs and the dangers they pose, use may go down.
Photo: Family handout