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Risking your Life: Designer Drugs and Counterfeit Medicines

The side effects and dangers of drugs that have been illegal for some time, like heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and cannabis, are well documented because plenty of tests have been carried out on them. The new so-called designer drugs and legal highs that are becoming available are extremely worrying from a medical point of view because so little is known about them. Doctors haven’t dealt with people abusing these types of substances before, so have no idea exactly how it will affect them in the short or long term. The fact that they are under the radar of police and drug authorities means that they can stay legal for quite some time before being added to the growing list of illegal narcotics. Some may not realize though that fake sale Cialis and sale Viagra tablets can be harmful as well.

The Ban of Bath Salts

Last year in October, the Drugs Enforcement Agency banned a number of chemicals that are made to produce bath salts, a new designer drug that rose to fame because of its unpredictable effects, plus the fact you could buy it from a high street store. The chemicals banned were methylone, MDPV, and mephedrone, but it’s thought new forms of bath salts are being produced by street chemists to stay one step ahead of these bans.

Called names like ‘Vanilla Sky,’ ‘Bliss,’ and ‘Purple Wave,’ they are labeled with notices that say they are not for human consumption, thereby getting around laws that would make them illegal. Effectively, once someone has got their hands on them it’s up to them to ingest them or not, but they have been warned not to. Zane Horowitz, an emergency room physician, answers some more questions about bath salts here.

The effects of these drugs known as ‘bath salts’ are extremely disturbing. Doctor’s now know that they bring on a feeling of agitation and paranoia, and that’s just in small quantities. It stimulates the nervous system in the same way cocaine does, but also inhibits the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which stops you achieving a ‘feel-good’ sensation. In large doses the drug causes you to experience hallucinations and become delusional or even suicidal. There have been a number of reported cases that horrifically violent attacks have been carried out by people in a bath salt-induced psychosis.

In Los Angeles a 20 year-old man under the influence of bath salts was arrested after he tried to hit a 77 year-old pensioner with a shovel. Apparently he was outside swinging the shovel at birds when the elderly women approached him and suggested he should stop doing so. After going back into her house, the bath salt user entered her home and hit her on the head with the shovel. He then barricaded himself in his apartment, and was taken into hospital screaming “God loves all of you” to bewildered bystanders.

Deluded Behaviour and Deadly Consequences

It’s not only bath salts that have risen to the attention of authorities and the public. On incident involving a 19 year-old girl from Lincolnshire who took the legal high ‘Benzo Fury’ resulted in bizarre and obscene behaviour. After taking the drug she described how she went on a ‘terrifying trip.’ After trashing her friend’s flat where she took the drug, she stormed out and began parading down the aisle of a supermarket while in the nude. When police approached her she flew into a range and kicked one of the officers in the face. ‘Benzo Fury’ has also been blamed for the death of 19 year-old Alex Herriot in June 2011, when he collapsed at the RockNess festival in Scotland.

Just because these drugs can be legally bought, does not mean they are safe to use, and a doctor can only really tell if somebody has taken them if the person tells the doctor. There is no advised course of treatment, and no way to recognize the symptoms of a drug that has had no research done into it. So in effect, consumers of these legal highs are the first batch of guinea pigs for doctors to assess and test, to try and find out what these substances do to the human body and brain. The NHS in the UK offers some facts and guidance about legal highs which can be found here, but it is by no means conclusive. Worryingly, once these legal highs become illegal, no doubt the drug will still be produced and sold, although it won’t appear on shop shelves anymore.

Counterfeit Medicine

Prescription drugs aren’t always cheap, and are sometimes hard to get hold of, so a black market of counterfeit medicines has grown into an industry worth billions of pounds. One of the most common medications to be duplicated is Viagra. In the same way illegal drugs are mixed with things like baking soda to increase profit, fake medicines can contain something completely different to what you think you are taking, or perhaps nothing beneficial at all. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a resource for finding out more about bogus medicine here. The organization is trying to combat the proliferation of counterfeit medicine, which has been responsible for treatment failure and death. In 2011, 3,000 people with HIV were given fake antiretroviral drugs which seriously affected their course of therapy.

Unfortunately, many people buying prescription drugs online or from illegal, unregistered sources are completely unaware of the danger they are putting themselves in. research carried out by the Urological Society of Australia revealed that counterfeit Viagra is very likely to contain a dosage that is too high, too low, and could be contaminated with dangerous chemicals. From the counterfeit Viagra they surveyed, almost 60% contained excessive amounts of the active ingredient, an over a third had no active ingredient at all. They also found that some contained heavy metals like lead and mercury, which can lead to poisoning and even death.

Don’t Take the Risk

Whether it’s legal highs or counterfeit prescription medicine, you’re playing a dangerous game if you decide to take these dodgy drugs. With more and more horror stories surfacing every day about the devastating effect of legal highs, and how people have died because the drugs they needed turned out to be fake, just remember it is not worth the risk. Be smart and think about your health.

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