If you think all dangerous street drugs are illegal, you’re dead wrong.
Police are dealing with new threats involving what are known as designer drugs — synthetic, research compounds meant for medical purposes, but being ingested by young people.
They are now being artificially developed to mimic the effects of cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD.
The most recent example in York Region was Dec. 28, when a 17-year-old Stouffville boy took 25i-NBOMe, a drug meant to mimic LSD and easily available online.
‘It was created for medical purposes. It’s a research compound; it’s not for human consumption.’
As a result of the intense hallucinations and delirium, he experienced, the high school student was taken to Markham-Stouffville hospital by a friend for medical treatment at 3 a.m.
Before doctors could get to work, the boy had to be restrained by police as he was displaying what is known by police as “excited delirium”.
One veteran drug investigator from York Regional Police’s drug squad said officers often witness the behaviour in users who have overdosed on cocaine or LSD. It involves hyperventilating, a blood-pressure rise, profuse sweating and sometimes violence and medical distress.
Although this case didn’t involve violence, seizure, cardiac arrest or death, which is also common, it did involve a few very intense hours for the user and the doctors treating the teenager.
“Over the last five years, these psycho-active substances have taken off in Canada and around the world,” said Det. Doug Bedford, on the force’s synthetic drug team. “It’s hard for law enforcement to keep up with it. They’re coming out so fast it’s hard to keep a handle on them.”
He added that he has contacted Health Canada and is looking for input on whether or not they will pursue labelling the drug as a controlled substance.
The drugs reside in a legal grey area because they are marketed as “not for human consumption” and often their recipes can be tweaked to avoid being classified as illegal.
In the United States, where authorities found the drug to be partially responsible for five deaths since 2010, the substance was banned by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2013.
That came months after the death of Australian Henry Kwan, 17, who stripped naked and jumped off his balcony in Sydney, Australia after taking NBOMe, which he thought was LSD.
He bought it off a school friend who is believed to have purchased the drugs off the Internet. His father later told the media his son thought he could fly and, although his mother tried to stop him, he was too strong and broke free.
One of the websites that sells the drugs — Biochem Distribution — is based in Canada. The firm sells the drug for about $2 a milligram. It is also available on other drug order websites, including Silk Road.
Although the Stouffville teenager allegedly told police he bought the drugs from a mystery man at a bus stop, police believe it’s highly possible he actually ordered the drugs online.
Det. Bedford warns parents about the effects these substances might have on their children, adding young people’s curiosity may lead them to experiment.
“It was created for medical purposes. It’s a research compound; it’s not for human consumption,” he said. “The doses are so high, it’s extremely potent. Doses should be in the microgram, meaning one millionth of a gram. I want to educate and warn it’s potentially lethal.”
He further warned that, as in the case of Kwan, if someone sells the drug and the user dies, police will deem the seller criminally responsible.
Health Canada’s Sara Lauer said the drug is being monitored, but it remains legal.
As for the NBOMe high, Det. Bedford said from what he can tell, the ‘trip’ involves severe hallucinations, including lights becoming so vivid that they “overtake vision” often “getting stuck in loops” so they become extremely intense.
First-hand testimonies from those who have allegedly tried the drugs are available online.
“I put this up my nose a couple months ago and wound up not dead, but close enough to it to where my next month was scary and foggy,’’ one user posted. ‘’I remember nothing but death all around me. I would wake up occasionally to people asking me if I was alright [sic]. I’m a small girl. I … took about 1-1.5 mg of this chemical that has now caused severe anxiety and panic attacks. As a matter of fact, I do very much feel like I have died in a way.’”
CNN reported on a number of deaths only one month ago. In the report, one of the users was quoted as saying: “The trees looked like cauliflowers like dancing around. The sidewalks were swooping up and down like a roller coaster and the grass was shooting up to the sky.”
His friend had an entirely different experience, a much more violent one.
“He was convulsing uncontrollably, foaming at the mouth and hitting his head.”
By the time an ambulance arrived, the teenager was suffering multiple organ failure and went into cardiac arrest, before he died.