Concern over 'synthetic' drugs

2011-08-29 11:23

Pretoria - A synthetic drug with a similar effect on the body to that of dagga, and which could also be addictive, is being marketed as a “legal” drug in South Africa, apparently as a result of inadequate legislation.

What is more, routine urine screening tests for drugs cannot detect it.

In an investigation into the matter, Beeld bought a packet of Magic Dragon herbal blend on the website and took it to the forensic toxicology laboratory of the University of Pretoria’s chemistry department.

According to Dr Tim Laurens, a toxicologist and director of the laboratory, an advanced test (gas chromatographic mass spectrometric analysis) showed that the mixture contains JWH-073, a synthetic molecule that can have a similar effect on the body to that of dagga, and an even stronger one.

Not covered by SA laws

Laurens’s laboratory earlier also found JWH-073 in a packet of Dust bought on the same website. He said he has been receiving inquiries from big companies suspecting that their workers are using “synthetic dagga”. The companies are at their wits’ end because routine urine screening tests to identify drug users in the workplace have not been able to detect the substances.

Laurens said that during a research project in Germany earlier this year he heard that authorities from all over the world are battling to control synthetic drugs.

Dagga and derivatives of the plant are banned in South Africa by the Medicine and Related Substances Act and the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act.

Laurens says JWH-073 is a chemical compound not covered by the dagga laws, because it is not a derivative of the dagga plant.

This molecule and several other synthetic molecules were originally developed by researchers looking for a safe medicinal use for dagga.

But underground pharmacologists started using it in herbal products and selling these as “legal” drugs. One of the first synthetic cannabinoids found in herbal drugs was JWH-018 in 2008. Now there are dozens of them.

It is suspected that the chemical substances are sprayed on plant material, dried and packaged, but not declared on the packaging.

Sales of the herbal drugs (initially known as Spice) skyrocketed when the media in Germany reported on them. The authorities started banning the products and molecules one after the other, but are struggling to stay ahead.

Difficult to detect

Underground pharmacologists apparently alter the molecular structure of the synthetic cannabinoids quite frequently, which makes it difficult to detect with laboratory tests.

Legal-highs says in its marketing material that its products are safe and contain herbs as well as a “synthetic cannabinoid of the JWH family”.

Many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US, have started declaring synthetic cannabinoids illegal or scheduled medicines.

Laurens has written to the SA Medicine Control Board (MCB) to propose that legislation be adapted to ban it here as well. The MCB has not answered any media inquiries.

Ross Whitehead of said the company’s head office is in New Zealand and declined to comment immediately.

  • Currie_Mafia - 2011-08-29 11:29

    Can't beat the real thing...

      Netherlander - 2011-08-29 12:29

      After all, it is only a WEED that turns into a FLOWER in your MIND....

      SageScion - 2011-08-29 15:10

      How many people has commited violent acts high on weed? and ask that same question but only about alcohol. Outlaw Alcohol and legalise weed. It makes perfect sense.

      Dominic - 2011-08-29 16:00

      Legalise the organic stuff. Put organised crime out of [that] business. free up jail space. Increase government revenue. Nothing wrong with a high every now and then. Better than getting drunk.

  • PiXeL_NiNja - 2011-08-29 11:31

    toke and pass

  • lou63 - 2011-08-29 11:41

    In the article printed in an Afr news paper they have the www site's name where this drug can be bought from ,, ain't this kinda free publicity

      Elt - 2011-08-29 12:24

      uuummm... In this article too lou... Short term memory loss hey? Isn't that a side effect of the real thing?

      Netherlander - 2011-08-29 12:29

      ROFLMAO @ Elt.... so are the GIGGLES... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!

      chris.debeer1 - 2011-08-29 14:23

      Shit I think I have the Munchies haha hehe

      Netherlander - 2011-08-29 14:41

      HAHAHAHAHA!!!! "LAGGIES" and the Munchies.... HAHAHAHAHA!!!

  • Action - 2011-08-29 11:44

    Wonder if the free advertising for was intentional? Thanks anyway.

  • Flasheart - 2011-08-29 11:48

    Thanks for the site name. Whoohoo

  • DEVILS SON - 2011-08-29 11:48

    pass to the left cos the right way is wrong

  • Sisie - 2011-08-29 11:52

    I can see sales shooting through the roof.

      Agnostic - 2011-08-29 12:28

      You right. Sales will be very HIGH.

  • REALIST - 2011-08-29 12:02

    so legalise the real deal and do away with bs like this...

  • something2say - 2011-08-29 12:12

    8 comments, and all seemingly for legislation. VIVA SA!

      Flasheart - 2011-08-29 12:44

      They might Nationalize weed if we're not careful.

  • VargVikernes - 2011-08-29 12:15


      lungelo mpatho - 2011-08-29 18:46


  • Gargmel - 2011-08-29 12:21

    Just legalize already!

  • GTFO - 2011-08-29 12:40

    "is this a dagga i see before me..."WS

      Zion - 2011-08-29 16:14

      Try this one: What is this that stands before me? Is it not the chosen One. (Black Sabbath) Sound of bells.

  • fanta.panda - 2011-08-29 12:40

    you can't ban 'em all ... full steam ahead for legalisation of marijuana. it worked for Portugal, arguably a 1st-world country with a 3rd world society. I'm just saying...

  • Rob Gunning - 2011-08-29 12:49

    Let them drive and drink, not smoke and think.

      Netherlander - 2011-08-29 12:51


  • Gustav Dippenaar - 2011-08-29 12:49

    Europe isnt a country, Beeld!

  • steven jessop - 2011-08-29 12:50

    get a life you spoil sports... if we want to drug ourselves we will!!! our life our bodies!!!

  • Rob Gunning - 2011-08-29 12:52

    Not one person against the use of Marijuana.... Makes you wonder why it's banned... Pretty sure we live in a democracy. Maybe it's time to take the legislation making this harmless weed illeagal back to the law makers. Still not one death attributed to marijuana overdose.... No addiction.... but still it's illeagal???? Makes no sense.

      Lynne - 2011-08-29 13:04

      actually, yes it does make sense. alcohol can be taxed. legalise marijuana and everyone will be growing their own.... always follow the money when you see a dumbass law or activity and you will find the answer.

      THX1148 - 2011-08-29 13:47

      I'm against it.

      Valis - 2011-08-29 14:05

      @THX1148: No-one is saying you will be forced to use it. If you are against it that's your business but you can't tell other people what they can or can not put into their bodies. I hope you are also in favour of criminalising tobacco and alcohol, as these two drugs kill six million people EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Grand total of deaths caused by dagga: ZERO!

      Jacques Jones - 2011-08-29 14:35

      @thx1148 me too, when they legalize it should not be taxed

      Netherlander - 2011-08-29 14:43

      THX1148... if you are an ADULT... you have the RIGHT TO REFUSE TO PARTAKE!!!! Simple as that! Same as watching Porn on TV... simply turn the TV OFF!!!!

      Richard Townley-Johnson - 2011-08-29 17:30

      THX.. You should be all for it (if you are really against it). They more people stoned the less competition for good jobs in this country.

      James - 2011-08-30 08:23

      Regarding the grow your own... I can brew my own alcohol but I can't be bothered. Would much rather walk into a bottle store and choose from anything from across the world.

  • Lynne - 2011-08-29 12:58

    number of marijuana deaths in the world (ever) = 0. compared to alcohol related deaths = hundreds of thousands each year. what exactly is the issue here? nobody i know who blazes has beaten the wife or kids, the same is not true of alcohol. legalise marijuana.

      Netherlander - 2011-08-29 13:21

      HEMP should be produced in SA... has all the correct temperatures and conditions for the PROFITABLE GROWTH OF HEMP!!!! Imagine the JOBS that will be made available, should the HEMP INDUSTRY GET OFF THE GROUND!!!!!!!!!!

      redfugue - 2011-08-29 13:44

      There is insufficient evidence, particularly because of the low number of studies, to assess whether the all-cause mortality rate is elevated among cannabis users in the general population. Case-control studies suggest that some adverse health outcomes may be elevated among heavy cannabis users, namely, fatal motor vehicle accidents, and possibly respiratory and brain cancers. The evidence is as yet unclear as to whether regular cannabis use increases the risk of suicide. When adjusting for the usual confounders, drug users have a double risk of premature mortality than non-drug users. This includes the cannabis-only users.

      Valis - 2011-08-29 14:13

      @redfugue: The usual lies by the anti-have-a-little-fun crowd. Their is ZERO evidence, I repeat, ZERO evidence that cannabis causes any harm. We have lots of real-world studies that show that. Looking at consumption rates in different countries show there is NO increased mortality or risk associated with its use. On the contrary, scientific studies have shown it to shrink cancer tumours in mice and it also has a preventive effect against cancer. So you are against a cure for cancer then?

      kirstcxX - 2011-08-29 14:23

      Its all fair and well to decide that legalising marijuana is the solution to all problems by just going on statistics. However it is still a substance that alters state of mind, albeit being natural. It is fair to say that alcohol has the same affect, however one must consider that it may be too late to illegalise alcohol due to consequences such as public uproar and huge economic loss and therefore cannot be done. What is achievable, or atleast mostly achievable, is to keep what is often seen as a 'gateway' drug out of everyday norms. When considering the legalisation of marijuana, one must consider that this action may open up doors for other illegal substances in the future. Unfortunatley, legislation is black and white, when one starts introducing shades of grey, in this case the legalisation of less harmful drugs, the less effective the legislation becomes.

      Jacques Jones - 2011-08-29 14:35

      @netherlander there are hemp farms in sa(legal ones)

      Netherlander - 2011-08-29 14:44

      Jacque Jones.... I did not know that. Know which products get manufactured at these Farms?

  • nicholas wallace - 2011-08-29 13:08

    search up the dagga couple they going to court to fight for recreational use of dagga in south africa

  • Coach18 - 2011-08-29 13:17

    weed aint a drug its a plant it just grows like that, but if you should just so happen to set it on fire... it has some effects! side effect Hungry Happy Sleepy thats it!!!

      redfugue - 2011-08-29 13:46

      Opium is also just a plant. Burn and chase.

      Valis - 2011-08-29 14:13

      Bang! I've just shot down your straw man, redfugue.

      jean.dutoit - 2011-08-29 15:00

      @redfugue: Please don't bring facts to the table. The druggies do not like it.

  • jweer42 - 2011-08-29 13:46

    If its legal, the price will drop through the floor. So I guess all the potheads need to start saving to buy more than they can smoke in a lifetime, when this happens.

  • THX1148 - 2011-08-29 13:49

    So the chemical is not illegal, but surely the website is. It promotes the use of narcotics in a country where such narcotics are banned.

      Valis - 2011-08-29 14:16

      Reading comprehension fail. The substance (not a narcotic btw) is LEGAL. Also, we have a little something here called "freedom of expression".

  • Zion - 2011-08-29 16:11

    The perfect substance to keep the mouths shut for some time until it is declared illegal then the voices will rise in a crescendo of rage. Now why would big companies be bothered about their staff using it and the companies are at their wits end. It is harmless then is it not?

  • Richard Townley-Johnson - 2011-08-29 17:28

    Well.. I'd say that the negative effects of weed are not the getting stoned part.. In the brain deadness the next day and disassociation with reality that are the issues.. If they have a drug that 1)Is legal and 2)Doesn't have these side effects what's the issue?

      JustinD - 2011-08-30 08:42

      You talk absolute crap. Brain "deadness" the next day?????? You sound like a tikkop.

  • lungelo mpatho - 2011-08-29 18:41

    unNATURAL high!

  • heretic182 - 2011-08-29 19:33

    Does it not concern anyone that despite the majority of people world wide against the prohibition of most drugs that the government continues to do so anyway ?

  • James - 2011-08-30 08:18

    and in the latest news, legal-highs co za record record profits after this article. Dumb@ss media.

  • Zion - 2011-08-30 16:14

    I just love these dagga forums. They have the ability to dig the aap twak addicts out of nowhere and always have the most to say in praise of it. Soon we will have an EGG on the comments. It takes some time for them to crawl out of the woodwork then after a puff or ten, Woeps back into limbo for another month or ten. Egg on the dial does not register.

  • fvn.roozter - 2011-08-30 23:21

    Hello, im a member of the german incense scene and i can only say: Ban this Shit before it is too late!!! Do you know what the actually Situation is in Germany?? It´s to late to Control this Problem! Even if they will legalize Weed... This Stuff was to long going around and now there is a scene of cashcropping Producers which have a great life because of many addicted People and stupid drug laws! Thx Government, great job!

  • Sue Kruger - 2013-06-04 02:19

    We still get it in NZ, bad news ban the stuff.Legalize weed that is what NZ is trying to do

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