Research Chemicals and Designer Drugs

Research Chemicals and Designer Drugs

Defining a Research Chemical

Research chemicals are experimental chemicals that have been designed to produce effects that mimic other drugs such as ecstasy amphetamines, cannabinoids or psychoactive drugs. These drugs are sometimes called Designer Drugs or Legal Highs. These type of drugs are described as research chemicals because they are new substances that have very little information about them regarding their effects. Toxicity is often unknown and information about the experience these drugs give a user are usually based on small human studies.

Research chemicals have increasingly become popular because of the way they are made and sold. Many of these drugs are sold legally over the internet on various websites. They are able to be sold and marketed in this way as they fit into the gray zone between legal and illegal drugs. Research chemicals are often similar in molecular structure to illicit drugs such as cocaine, MDMA or opium or they could be different chemicals that are combined to produce an experience similar to psychoactive substances.

Research Chemical Risks

Because of the nature of these drugs, research chemicals are incredibly dangerous to ingest and have been directly linked to the deaths of many people. The risks involved are potentially greater than taking other illicit substances due to the unknown effects on people, whether there are interactions with other drugs including alcohol, or what toxicity the drugs may have. Unlike other drugs, research chemicals have often not been taken by many people. Information regarding the experience may be based on only a few peoples stories.

Research chemicals can produce many serious negative side effects. These can include increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, increased swearing, inflammation of the heart, convulsions and seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness, chronic diarrheaea, cardiovascular problems, potential neurotoxicity, severe vomiting, nauseabluingng of lips and fingers. There are a number of reports of deaths from ingestion of research chemicals including 2CB-Fly, Mephedrone and 2C-E and all which are sold legally as research chemicals.

Online Purchase

Experimental research chemicals are often purchased online with vendors all over the world. The drugs are then posted to the purchaser who will receive nothing more than a bag of pills or powder and a receipt. Sellers often try to restrict sale to over legal drinking age, but may not do any checks to confirm. Purity of the chemicals are often touted as a key sale factor, with many of these chemicals at 90 percent purity and over.

The issue with selling and obtaining these drugs from online sources is that there could be potentially many risks with the type of substance purchased, the effect it will have and whether a person is committing a crime when they purchase the drug. Laws are continuously changing around the world to be able to control and restrict the sale of these harmful drugs. By purchasing these drugs, individuals are not just putting their own health at risk, but they are potentially going to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Impure Substances

One of the key issues that surrounds research chemicals is the lack of knowledge of what types of substances are being sold as mephedrone or MDAI for example. One study showed that chemicals are often sold with other ingredients, mixtures, or as a pure substance. These varied levels of impurities can lead to errors in dosage, severe adverse reactions and overdosing. There is very limited information regarding the correct amount of research chemicals that should be taken, what the chemicals can have adverse reactions with, what should be avoided. As with any chemical compound, care should be taken when handling them. Unfortunately many people do not follow this principle when they take research chemicals. Additionally, individuals should remember that psychoactive drugs are notoriously unpredictable in the reactions by different individuals.


Probably the most well known and most abused of all the research chemicals, mephedrone is a drug that is a stimulant drug that produces effects similar to an amphetamine. This drug is sold as a fine white crystalline powder and often called meph, meow-meow, m-cat, plant food, bath salts and bubbles. Users take the drug because it induces euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and people liken the effects to cocaine, speed or ecstasy.

Mephedrone has been known to cause serious health complications including heart palpitations, vomiting and nausea, disorientation, increased blood pressure, lowered body temperature which has been linked to user reports of having blue hands and lips and has been known to cause seizures and fits. The high that mephedrone gives users often makes them want to take repeated doses. This can increase the risk of suffering serious side effects and overdosing.

Synthetic Cannabis

Synthetic cannabis is a drug that mimics the effects of marijuana. Synthetic cannabis is typically sold as a mixture of medicinal herbs which apparently produce a mild euphoria and intoxication when smoked. It is often sold as Spice, Kronik, and incense. Synthetic cannabis can cause users to feel nauseous, anxious, show signs of agitation and become withdrawn and depressed. Long term effects of the drug is unknown.

Spice and other brands of synthetic cannabis contain a chemical called JWH-018 which is a cannabinoid receptor. JWH-018 is reported to be up to 5 times more potent than tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, which is the active chemical in cannabis. The unfortunate issue is that JWH-018 has been found to be in variable amounts in different products which can lead to unknowingly ingesting of large amounts of JWH-018.