Authorities investigating the composition of the dangerous synthetic drugs distributed over the summer across the US have found a dangerous drug masquerading as “synthetic marijuana.” The drug, tested not only from the leftover samples but also from subjects after it metabolized in the body, may be marketed as marijuana, but its effects are dangerously foreign to both marijuana and synthetic drugs users. In short, the drug isn’t much like actual marijuana at all, and it’s estimated to be a psychedelic that’s up to 85 times stronger than marijuana, according to the New York Times. Many drugs marketed as “fake weed” have a completely different chemical structure from plant-based THC, according to research.

Synthetic cannabinoids don’t function the same way as THC on the body, and increasingly are formulated to be more powerful than any organic compounds. In Brooklyn, with the street name AK-47 24 Karat Gold, a drug formulary named AMB-FUBINACA wreaked havoc on drug users who ingested the drug last summer. Bystanders as well as police recorded the people high on the drug, many who were moaning and rolling around, appearing to have hallucinations and described in a “zombielike” state of distress. The drug is known for its overwhelming effects, one of which includes people who are high moaning as if they were in pain.

Synthetic marijuana and other drugs pose a huge challenge in America. The chemical compounds are often created in labs in China, often from failed patents that chemist find online and use to create unregulated drugs. This was the case with AMB-FUBINACA, which first appeared in a Pfizer patent online in 2009, and appeared on the streets in Japan as a club drug just a few years later. Drugs are typically smuggled into the country via purchases on the “dark web”, but when American authorities come across them, it’s not so simple to ban them. Once a formulation is banned, chemists set out to create a similar formula, but they may add in additional active or inactive ingredients, making a new and potentially more dangerous concoction for users to experiment with.

According to the New York Times, AMB-FUBINICA formulations found online were sold for $1.95 to $3.80 a gram, or $1,950 to $3,800 a kilogram. Once it arrives in the US, however, drug dealers use additional chemicals and herbs to make it “unique” and marketable as synthetic marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is increasingly popular with young people as well as those who are drug tested by the criminal justice system or their jobs.
Experts agree that the influx of drugs from China, including synthetic marijuana formulations, will increasingly be a challenge for the DEA and other law enforcement. A synthetic drug called Pink, which has only been marketed on the black market for less than a year, is responsible for 46 deaths in the US so far. Research shows that drugs such as fentanyl, Carfentanil and other opioids are also entering the US through drug markets on the dark web. And while drug dealers don’t likely intentionally poison their users, the additional substances added to a dangerous cocktail often cause disastrous results such as seizures, organ failure, and death. Until authorities find a way to stop the inflow of drugs, and China halts illegal production and export, there is reason for all of America to be alarmed.

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