The Police and employers are constantly developing new tests to detect the use of drugs in the population, however, the illegal drug’s manufacturers are always trying to be one step ahead. Since cannabis and its natural derivatives can be easily tested for new synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) are being developed that currently can’t be detected. Most of these chemicals have a much greater potency than the natural ones, up to 85 times that of THC (the psychoactive chemical in cannabis) but also have much more severe side effects such as tachycardia, arrhythmias, seizures, hyperthermia, cardiotoxicity, and acute kidney injury. Drugs such as these have seen a significant rise in deaths and admissions to hospital over the last two years.
However, in an area of Brooklyn, New York last summer people observed extremely strange behaviour from some individuals. 33 people were admitted to hospital all displaying the same symptoms. A member of the emergency services described a 28-year-old male patient as “being slow to respond to questioning and as having a ‘blank stare’. He had intermittent periods of ‘zombielike’ groaning and slow mechanical movements of the arms and legs.” A member of the public even live streamed on Facebook 3 others behaving in this way saying, “It’s like a scene out of a zombie movie, a horrible scene. This drug truly paralysed people.”
Medics were baffled as the usual drug screening they performed showed no traces and the patients all recovered from their symptoms after around 9 hours. However, scientists took samples from 8 of the patients and carried out a much more thorough set of tests. They discovered high levels of an SC known asAMB-FUBINACA. They also conducted tests on a sample of the herbal incense product ‘AK-47 24 Karat Gold’ and discovered this was the likely source for the apparent overdoses. Worryingly this SC was creating the ‘zombie-like’ state but showing none of the other common side effects, depressing the Central Nervous System to a dramatic extent.
Laws are being rushed through to make this SC illegal and to incorporate its detection in drug screening.