The second episode in the Netflix series ‘The Business of Drugs’ covers synthetics — drugs made from synthetic substances. Amaryllis Fox introduced the episode by acknowledging Dr Alexander Shulgin. When he was working as a chemist in the 1960s he conducted research and carried out experiments on the creation of synthetic substances. He later became known as the Godfather of Ecstasy. Dr Shulgin also synthesised other psychedelic drugs which he tested on himself. Even though his original purpose for manufacturing MDMA was the therapeutic treatment of conditions such as PTSD, it was classified as an illegal substance in 1985. There was a frightening knock-on effect after these drugs were classed as illegal — other copycat drugs soon started to flood the market. However, these new drugs were not intended for medicinal use — they were purely recreational.
Amaryllis interviewed individuals called ‘psychonauts’ — psychedelic thrill seekers. These are people who want to try new drugs which haven’t yet been tested or researched simply for the thrill and out-of-body and out-of-mind experiences. Estimates show there are currently over 800 synthetic drugs on the market. Without sufficient lab controls, the effects of these drugs can vary tremendously. The users are in effect guinea pigs for these substances.
Another dangerous drug highlighted in this episode was synthetic cannabis, known as spice. The use of this drug lead to many people being likened to zombies — they fell into a trancelike state, moaning and shuffling about with slow limbs and lifeless eyes.
Buying synthetic drugs is apparently very easy. Buyers and sellers can do business on the internet and these products are flowing undetected throughout the worldwide postal service. The fact that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are generally the method of buying and selling makes it very difficult to trace the origins.
One major point that this episode highlighted was that synthetic drugs were originally intended for use in a variety of therapies. As they became over-regulated, they were driven underground which lead to synthetic drug abuse. They were never intended to be used in a recreational setting, but sadly that is how their use has evolved.
Coming next, episode 3 — ‘The Business of Drugs: Heroin’.