INVITED EDITORIAL Canadian Designer Drugs

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INVITED EDITORIAL Canadian Designer Drugs Powered By Docstoc
					    Substance abuse disorders are a significantpart ofpsychiaticpractice and an increasing challenge for both psychiatrists
    and biomedical researchers. Increased use of psychomotor stimulants presents a serious public health problem and
    much clinical and basic research has been carried out to investigate the effects of these drugs. The problem of
    "designer drugs" in this category, ie., drugs that are clandestinely produced to circumvent existing drug regulations,
    was the subject of a symposium at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Canadian CoUlege of Neuropsychopharmacology
    held in Hamilton, Ontario, Cana4, June 2-5, 1991. Some of the papers presented at this symposium will appear
    in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience starting with this issue and are prefaced by the following Invited
                                                                                                                 P. Hrdina, Editor

                                              Canadian Designer Drugs
                                                               Bruce A. Lodge
                                            Bureau of Drug Research, Health and Welfare Canada

    It would probably be helpful to begin with a definition               The variety of substances presents a real challenge to the
of the term "designer drugs." In this context, this is under-             forensic analyst. In addition, there is the problem of trying
stood to mean any substance in which the molecular structure              to predict what might appear next. Such predictions can,
is designed to circumvent existing drug regulations, and                  however, be rationally based on a thorough knowledge of
which, by analogy to known, active compounds, might                       the relevant literature, coupled with intelligence work by
reasonably be expected to have activity (presumably neuro-                enforcement agencies.
psychopharmacological) of its own.                                            The largest group of designer substances which we have
    People are often surprised that Canadian designer drugs               encountered recently is in the amphetamine category, some
should be different from anyone else's, but it is a fact of               of which, as far as is known, have not yet appeared in any
life that we in Canada often see new, clandestinely produced              other country. In particular, derivatives of 2,5-dimethoxy-
drugs before they appear elsewhere. Indeed, this pheno-                   amphetamine have been synthesized; among these are the
menon dates back at least to the time of paramethoxyam-                   4-ethoxy-, the 4-chloro- and the 4-methylthio-derivatives.
phetamine (PMA), which first appeared in Ontario in 1973,                 This last substance is a curiosity if only because of the
shortly before its advent in the United States.                           inevitable odor problems associated with working with sul-
    The responsibility for administering Canada's drug laws               phur-containing compounds in a clandestine situation. (It
rests with the Ministry of National Health and Welfare                    should be remembered that clandestine laboratories are often
(NHW). Within NHW, administrative functions are handled                   located in urban areas).
by the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs (BDD). Furthermore,                          Prediction of the future possibilities in clandestine am-
the analysis of all drug seizures is carried out in the                   phetamine chemistry is a limitless task. Some prime pros-
laboratories of NHW. Such analyses are primarily the                      pects, whose identities are closely guarded secrets, have
responsibility of the Field Operations Directorate (FOD),                 already been synthesized. Attempts at prediction do pay
and are performed in their Regional Laboratories in Halifax,              off; some years ago the standard for 4-ethoxy-amphetamine
Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Samples from                   was being synthesized when the drug suddenly appeared
the National Capital Region, Eastern Ontario and Western                  in a clandestine environment.
Quebec are analyzed at the Bureau of Drug Research (BDR)                      One complete surprise was the appearance of the drug
Laboratories in Ottawa. BDR also has responsibility for                   which came to be known as OP5 (1-[3-oxo-3-phenylpropyll-
method development and provision of authenticated refer-                  4-phenyl-4-propionoxypiperidine). This substance, with
ence standards, as well as projects such as sample linking,               1300 times the analgesic activity of meperidine, would, in
impurity profiling and international collaboration with the               a dosage form, represent a major challenge to an analyst
United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs and national                    when it appeared for the first time on the street. Fortunately
agencies in other countries.                                              the product was intercepted before reaching this point. The
    Each summer for the past few years (up to 1990) a new                 real danger from such a compound would seem to come
drug or class of drugs has appeared in a clandestine setting.             from the possibility of producing, during the synthesis, a
                                                                          decomposition product of the tetrahydropyridine type, re-
    Address reprint requests to: Bruce A. Lodge, Ph.D., Head, Chemistry   lated to the known, extremely toxic 1 -methyl-4-phenyltetra-
Section, Pharmaceutical Chemistry Division, Bureau of Drug Research,      hydropyridine (MPTP). It is interesting to note that recent
Health Protection Branch, Tunney's Pasture, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.      patents in this field of drugs are held by the U.S. Army,
J Psychiatr Neurosci, VoL 16, No. 5, 1991
240                                    Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience                                   Vol. 16, No. S, 1991

and that the only other group which appears to be active               Little or nothing is known about the psychoactive prop-
is in the Soviet Union. This class of drugs appear to be            erties of most of these designer drugs. Discoveries in this
of military interest not for its analgesic properties, but rather   field usually arise from the fact that the clinical trials for
because some members of the group are powerful disabling            the drugs are, in effect, conducted on the street, with obvious
agents.                                                             risk to the health and safety of the consumer. While some
   Abuse of the drug phencyclidine (PCP) is a regional              contract research has been conducted on some of the
problem in Canada in that 90% of samples submitted for              designer drugs of particular interest to NHW, resources are
analysis come from Quebec. A recent crop of designer                extremely limited. Samples of some could, however, be made
drugs from that province contained analogs of PCP, the              available to researchers on a collaborative basis as part of
methylphenyl- and benzyl-congeners.                                 the effort to learn as much as possible about the toxicity
                                                                    and psychopharmacology of these drugs.

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