Even China’s Chemists Don’t Know the Effects of Their Synthetic Drugs

May 1, 2015 Updated: May 1, 2015

Synthetic drugs have been making people do the darndest things. A new synthetic drug in Florida, called “Flakka,” for example, has seen a man violate a tree while calling himself “Thor,” made another impale himself on a fence, and has sent others into mad episodes of paranoia.

The problem with Flakka is a problem with synthetic drugs, in general. In order to dodge the law, chemists continue churning out new drugs. These new drugs in turn, often have unknown effects, and put lives in danger with their unknown dosages.

And it turns out that even some chemists in China who are fueling the synthetic drug problem don’t themselves know what the drugs do—let alone what would be a safe dosage.

Nicola Davison, a freelance journalist in Shanghai, recently visited a couple of these Chinese chemists, and documented her encounters in a May 1 article in The Guardian.

One of them was a chubby woman in her 30s who ran her lab from a nearly empty office building near the edge of Shanghai. What she told the interviewer is something definitive of the entire synthetic drug problem.

“We know nothing about the performance side,” she said. “We are just chemists.”

The chemist also proclaimed, “Our purity is above 99%,” which with synthetic drugs—that are sold freely over the Internet, then distributed by people who at times try to pass them off as legitimate drugs—should come off as more of a warning than a perk.

What’s purity after all, when even the chemist doesn’t know the dosage or effect of their product? With drugs like these, higher purity could just mean a higher risk of people overdosing—and it appears the chemist was already having trouble along these lines.

“I’m afraid this [compound] is not good,” the chemist told Davison, while showing her some of the drugs.

“Firstly, somebody give us the feedback that it’s not strong,” she said. “Second, it seems it has already [caused] dead in Russia. Do you know the news? So why do you still want it”

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