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The marketplace for narcotics isn’t what it used to be. Conventional street drugs like crystal meth and heroin continue to sell as ever before, but a new breed of mind-altering substances is becoming hard to ignore. These drugs are legal in many states, not because they’ve been decriminalized, but because they have yet to be classified as drugs.
Some derive from natural sources that have been around since time immemorial, and others are synthesized in laboratories. But in both cases, these substances --- which go by names like bath salts, spice, herbal incense and even plant food --- provide inexpensive highs and can be obtained in stores.
The highs often mimic those of drugs like marijuana and cocaine, but they don’t turn up in drug screenings and aren’t subject to federal laws. In many cases, the drugs are labeled “not for human consumption,” which allows them to go unregulated.
Read ahead to see a list of dangerous drugs that are legal in many American states.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 27 July 2012
Certain brands of incense contain a chemical known as JWH-210, a pain-relieving substance and a form of synthetic marijuana. Karen Dobner of Aurora, Ill., lost her 19-year-old son, Max, when he was killed in a car accident while driving under its influence. He had purchased the incense over the Internet.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency's Drug Fact Sheet, "purchasing over the Internet can be dangerous because it is not usually known where the products come from or what amount of chemical is on the organic material."
People paying attention to the news in the last few months have likely heard of a drug called “bath salts.” It can be made with various different chemicals, including methylenedioxypyrovalerone, an amphetamine-like substance abbreviated as “MDPV.”
It can produce delusions, psychosis and violent behavior.
On July 10, President Barack Obama signed a bill banning MDPV, along with more than 20 other chemicals commonly used to make bath salts. However, producers of the drug are able to change chemicals used to make the drug, according to the Associated Press.
According to the Hunterdon Drug Awareness Program, a nonprofit outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment program in New Jersey, bath salts manufacturers have responded to the MDPV ban by creating a new version of the drug that substitutes the stimulant pentedrone.
So far, only a handful of states, such as Colorado, Illinois and Indiana, have taken steps to regulate this substance.
Salvia is a plant commonly referred to as sage. It has many different species and uses, such as Salvia officinalis, which is used in cooking, and Salvia sclarea, which is used perfume.
Salvia divinorum has shown effectiveness in treating diarrhea and headaches, but it’s best known for its hallucinogenic properties.
States such as Florida, Illinois and Louisiana have classified Salvia divinorum as a Schedule I drug. In California, sale of Salvia divinorum to a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Many over-the-counter cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, or DXM. This drug is an FDA-approved, legal substance that’s perfectly safe when used as directed. However, abuse has been on the rise for years, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research.
“Recreational users intentionally exceed suggested doses to experience a sense of heightened perceptual awareness, altered time perception, and/or visual hallucinations,” a Center for Substance Abuse report said. “Users often abuse the drug in combination with other drugs.
The interaction between DXM and other substances (e.g., alcohol, acetaminophen, MDMA/ecstasy, and other OTC cough medicines) produces a synergistic effect that can be very dangerous.”
Amyl nitrate is a medical treatment for heart disease and cyanide poisoning. It’s also used as an inhalant that goes by the street name “poppers,” and it’s been abused ever since the disco era.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, poppers “produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication.” However, it also carries the threat of irreversible side effects, including hearing loss, brain damage or heart failure.
Paint thinner is inhaled by recreational users. Depending on the amount inhaled, side effects range from mild intoxication to hallucinations, and can include “reduction of oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, changes to the heart muscle and heartbeat,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Some paint thinners include toluene, which can cause “loss of brain tissue mass, impaired cognition, gait disturbance, loss of coordination, loss of equilibrium, limb spasms, hearing and vision loss.” Excessive inhalation of paint thinner can be fatal.
Gas duster is used to clean computer parts, keyboards in particular. It’s also referred to as “compressed air,” an inaccuracy that has helped lead to the impression that inhaling it is harmless. In fact, the gas used in these dispensers is more dense than air, and it can be fatal the first time it’s inhaled.
The warnings that apply to other inhalants apply to gas duster. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nonfatal risks include suffocation, seizures and coma.
When nutmeg is used for its intended purpose in cooking or topping off a cup of egg nog, it adds a little something in the taste department. But when it’s snorted, smoked or eaten in much larger quantities than you would find in a cookbook, it can affect the peripheral nervous system.
Myristicin is an organic compound found in nutmeg, and in large quantities it has been found to produce “hallucinogenic effects similar to lysergic acid diethylamide.” It has also been found to cause “anxiety, fear, and a feeling of impending doom.”
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"Crime Inc. — A Deadly High" premieres Thursday, August 2 at 8 p.m. ET, with re-airs at 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. ET.