Public Release: 

Buying 'legal highs' from the Internet is a risky business

Many drugs sold as 'legal highs' on the internet do not contain the ingredients they claim, reports the journal Drug Testing and Analysis

Wiley

Many drugs sold as 'legal highs' on the internet do not contain the ingredients they claim. Some instead contain controlled substances and are illegal to sell over the internet. These are findings of Dr. Mark Baron, who bought a range of tablets from different websites to see what each contained. The study is published today in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis.

"It is clear that consumers are buying products that they think contain specific substances, but that in reality the labels are unreliable indicators of the actual contents," says Dr. Baron, who works in the School of Natural and Applied Sciences at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Baron says that buyers need to be aware that they have no idea what they will be taking and that some of the products could contain illegal substances. "The product name cannot be used as an indication of what it contains as there is variation in the content of the same product name between different internet sites," says Baron.

Recently there has been an explosion in the number of substances deemed 'legal highs' that can be found readily available on the internet . The UK and other governments have acted to control these products however, manufacturers and suppliers seem to be one step ahead as they attempt to offer new products outside of the restrictions of the current legislation.

Baron set out to determine the drug content of such products. Purchasing them was easy; numerous online legal-high retailers market a broad variety of products advertised as research chemicals, bath salts, or plant food although clearly marketed toward the recreational drug user . "No guidelines exist as to what is sold and in what purity and consumers are led to believe that purchased goods are entirely legal," says Baron.

With just a few clicks Baron bought MDAI, 5-IAI, Benzo Fury and NRG-3 from www.benzofury.me.uk and two MDA-labelled samples from www.VIPlegals.com and www.wide-mouth-frog.com. Six out of seven products did not contain the advertised active ingredient more disturbingly five samples contained the controlled substances benzylpiperazine and 1-[3-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl]piperazine combined with caffeine.

"These findings show that the legal high market is providing a route to supply banned substances," says Baron. He hopes that this work will help consumers become more aware of the dangers of purchasing products from the internet.

At the same time, legislators need to think fast. "As legislation deals with the current crop of products we can expect to see new products appearing that try to find a route of supplying previously banned substances," says Baron.

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This study is published in the quarterly magazine Drug Testing and Analysis. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact physicalsciencenews@wiley.com

Full Citation

"An Analysis of Legal Highs - Do They Contain What it Says On the Tin?" Mark Baron. Drug Testing and Analysis; 2011, DOI: 10.1002/dta.274. The URL upon publication will be http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dta.274.

About the Author

Dr. Mark Baron is the Principal Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Lincoln (UK), and is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. To arrange an interview with Dr. Mark Baron, please contact at Ian Richards, Public Relations Officer at University of Lincoln at irichards@lincoln.ac.uk.

About the Journal

As the incidence of drugs escalates in 21st century living, their detection and analysis have become increasingly important. Sport, the workplace, crime investigation, homeland security, the pharmaceutical industry and the environment are just some of the high profile arenas in which analytical testing has provided an important investigative tool for uncovering the presence of extraneous substances. Launched in January 2009, Drug Testing and Analysis provides an important resource exploring the analytical techniques used to determine controlled and potentially controversial compounds. For more information, please visit www.drugtestinganalysis.com.

About Wiley

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has been a valued source of information and understanding for more than 200 years, helping people around the world meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations. Since 1901, Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in all categories: Literature, Economics, Physiology/Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Peace.

Wiley's core businesses include scientific, technical, medical and scholarly (STMS) journals, encyclopedias, books and online products and services; professional/trade books, subscription products, training materials, online applications and Web sites; and educational materials for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, N.J., with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada and Australia. The company's Web site can be accessed at www.wiley.com. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols JWa and JWb.

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