This is the brain of a meth addict. The image on the x-ray shows dead and damaged brain cells. While science provides us with an insight into the effects of long term methamphetamine use in the burgeoning world of synthetic drugs readily available in shops across the country. There is no such window into the future. Damien Hansen investigates how the legal high market is evolving almost on a daily basis and authorities are helpless to stop it.
Forget buying illicit substances from drug houses, dark allies and street corners. Dealing is now main stream being sold over the counter in shopping centres and malls. These drugs are not tested for safety at all. We have no idea what so ever what damage people are doing to themselves by taking them. These substances may be more harmful than the drugs they are trying to mimic.
“Are they still legal?” Said Damien
“Yeah all the incense is ummm, no synthetics, it’s all good.” Said Shopkeeper
Australia's booming synthetic drug industry is evolving so quickly the law is struggling to keep pace.
Never before have recreational drugs been so available, so dangerous and so cheap.
“I'm wondering if you guys have any incense.” Asked Damien
“Yes, I have MJ Experience 1.5gram and the three gram. “ Said Shopkeeper
Substances that mimic the effects of illicit street drugs like ecstasy, marijuana, speed and cocaine all readily available at stores across the country this one's in Brisbane.
It's been banned "Puff" but that's what everyone whose buying Puff is now buying this.This adult book store is in Prahran in Melbourne's South East.
Where we purchased legal highs to have tested by chemist Dr John Vines at Racing Analytical Services. The goal posts have shifted if you like. The things we're seeing in these samples are different to the things we saw a year ago.
Each time one of the chemicals is banned a new products comes out in its place and it seems like each product that comes out to replace the banned substance is more harmful than the one that was banned in the first place.
Stephen Bright a clinical psychologist who specialises in drug policy believes we are losing the war on synthetic drugs.
The original synthetic cannabis products that were available in 2011 in Australia were less harmful probably than the products available today so banning the substances has actually been making the situation worse.
There is little information about the toxicology and pharmacology of new and emerging synthetic drugs making it difficult to determine just how much harm they are doing but images like these speak for themselves.
Synthetic cannabis sent this teenager blind and killed off 70 per cent of her brain cells. What we found was that most of them contained synthetic cannabinoids but interestingly they were very new synthetic cannabinoids that have only been reported in the last twelve months or less in other countries so these are quite novel.
White lite, was a one gram packet of white powder shown to contain a new designer drug called methipropamine with worse side effects than amphetamines.
It supposably causes a degree of panic attack, a possibility of psychosis and it's highly addictive apparently.
Marketed as yoga dream tea this herbal mix was shown to contain the new synthetic cannabinoids 5f-pb-22 and pb-22 likely to have a similar effect to that of THC in cannabis.
Synthetic cannabinoids are just analogues of that material. They are designed to have a similar sort of affect but there are of very different chemical structures. Their effect on humans is unknown.
White bull was found to contain Lignocaine and a designer drug called MDPV or methylenedioxypyrovalerone.
A prescription only painkiller. Lignocaine is actually a registered pharmaceutical drug, it's used by dentists to reduce pain, it's also used in the case of cardiac Arhythmics to stop the Arhythmics to stop reoccurring and produce a stable heartbeat.
“Do you need a prescription for this? “ Asked Damien
“Yes you'd need a prescription to get lignocaine.” Said Shopkeeper
But it gets worse Dr Vine also found traces of the drug known on the streets as “Meow Meow” or “Bath Salts” which has been linked to the deaths and bizarre psychotic behaviour.They'll have an effect, some of them more than others but there's a range of materials but they'll some affect.
Experts believe the "recipes" so to speak for a growing number of chemical compounds found in synthetic drug are being sourced on the web.
Isolated from research discarded by big pharmaceutical companies who have not been able to market their products because they were either beaten to the punch or their synthetic compounds had unacceptable side effects.
They are going over a whole variety of sites that describe how to make these synthetic cannabinoids and there are now probably about 12 different types of groups of synthetic cannabinoids.
And this woman says they're safe should be made legal.
These substances are used by people for insomnia fibromyalgia and even to stop the shaking from Parkinson's so they do have some benefits in that regard generally i would say people use it as a social tonic and a way to relax
Fiona Pattern from the Eros foundation represents manufacturers and retailers that peddle these hard drugs. Because of the way the law is it is hard to regulate exactly how it is sold exactly what dosages are available and exactly the content of the product is impossible.
As Barbera Traynor's son James discovered. I can't even express how much i want to get it out there to just not do it because we nearly lost our son. The twenty year old was pronounced clinically dead after smoking a form of synthetic cannabis called "smokin hot" bought from a local shop.
“I felt my eyes roll into the back of my head, that is the last thing I remember apart from being woken up in hospital with a tube down the back of my neck.” Said James
There has been a decline in the numbers or the percentages of traditional drugs such as cannabis, heroine and amphetamines cocaine that is being lodged for testing over there and there has been an increase in a lot of these new psychoactive substances and synthetic substances.
Detective Superintendant Steve Hollihand is from the Queensland Police he says taking these drugs is like playing Russian roulette. “You have only got to see how some of these things are marketed like putting a 38 revolver to your face, 100 x more potent than normal cocaine and they are marketed like that for a particular reason.”