RC Watch vol 1, issue 1 // Why designer drugs are turning up in more places than your bath (salts)

mephedrone bag

RCs – research chemicals, which are sometimes called designer drugs and are more properly described as unresearched chemicals, are becoming increasingly common, both in semi-legal grey areas like “bath salts” and “plant fertilizer” as well as in the underground illegal market.

TRIP! will be issuing this monthly bulletin regarding trends in research chems. If you have any questions about specific RCs, or have been hearing about any new ones that seem to be appearing, feel free to send us an e-mail at info@tripproject.ca or chat up one of our volunteers.

What exactly are RCs?

RCs are chemicals which have yet to be researched and/or have been created for research purposes but haven’t gone through rigorous clinical study. Because of this, anyone considering using research chems should do very thorough research first. Make sure to look into effects, side-effects, dosages and known risks, even more so than with “familiar” drugs – which you should always be as knowledgeable as possible about anyway 😉

As well, it is extremely important that you understand that you are essentially acting as a guinea pig, and many of these substances may only seem safe until a hospitalization or fatality occurs “in the wild.” Even if there are no serious short-term side-effects, long-term problems could accumulate and remain undetectable for years.

from Erowid:

“Although some people are willing to ingest these chemicals for their effects, it is not reasonable to assume that these chemicals are in any way ‘safe’ to use recreationally. Although all psychoactive use involves risk, this class of chemicals has undergone virtually no human or animal toxicity studies and there is little to no data on possible long term problems, addiction potential, allergic reactions, or acute overdoses.”


When you contrast this with drugs like LSD, MDMA and even now K which have decades of formal research behind them, the unknown risk factor essentially becomes infinite. However, nowadays you may be encountering these substances whether you seek them out or not, so it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the world of RCs even if you don’t intend to be consuming them.

This is because RCs – some of which were initially synthesized years ago – are popping up all over the place these days…

Where are they showing up?

While more and more people are acquiring RCs deliberately and selling them under their actual names, many RCs are also sold in place of already-popular drugs like MDMA/E, K, LSD and so on. This is because there is already established demand in the black market for these substances, and so it can be much easier to move a bag of methoxetamine by calling it “K” or PMMA by calling it “E” than by trying to explain what they actually are to reluctant customers.

Why are they now showing up more and more?

Technology and globalization is one reason. Although a flip through PiHKAL http://www.erowid.org/library/books_online/pihkal/pihkal.shtml and TiHKAL www.erowid.org/library/books_online/tihkal/tihkal.shtml will reveal more decades-old psychedelics than you’ll be able to keep track of, there are now more chemical companies producing them in high quantities, and it is easier for these suppliers to take orders online & ship products worldwide.

Prohibition is the other big reason. Recent years have seen repeated tightening of laws regarding possession, distribution and production of common street drugs like MDMA, K, and LSD.

Even though it now seems to be more likely for a user to experience a toxic overdose from PMMA than from MDMA, it is a much more serious crime to be found with a shipment of MDMA, actually encouraging the distribution of a more dangerous substance. Likewise, it is far safer to get caught with MXE than with K, even though MXE has been associated with recent lethal overdoses and K is still respected as a mostly-safe pharmaceutical anaesthetic.

It’s likely that the more prohibition is expanded, the greater the number of unresearched substances we will see on the black/grey market. While governments are attempting to push anti-analogue laws (essentially, very broad laws which try to make it illegal to choose to alter your consciousness in any way) and other measures which would ban RCs outright, technology continues to provide people with ever-expanding ways to get around the law, and prohibition measures simply can’t help but fall further and further behind.

Tech blog Gizmodo just posted a writeup on this topic: http://gizmodo.com/5914578/chemists-outrun-laws-in-war-on-synthetic-drugs

From that post: “If you want any evidence that drugs have won the drug war, you just need to read the scientific studies on legal highs,” — Vaughan Bell, MindHacks

What RCs has Toronto seen the most of so far?

  • MDPV
  • Mephedrone
  • 2C-*
  • Methoxetamine
  • BZP
  • AMT
    (For more info on these, see post #2.)

Some of these drugs fit the RC/designer drug qualification of being deliberate attempts to circumvent laws and create legal highs, others are simply largely-unknown chemicals that have existed under the radar for some time and are increasingly showing up in place of more common ones (such is the case when blotter acid turns out to be DOI or DOB instead of LSD).

In coming posts, we’ll explore these substances in more depth. If you have any questions about RCs that you’d like to know more about, or if you have noticed any emerging RC trends, please get in touch with us at info@tripproject.ca or by approaching any of our volunteers.

For now, if you need research-based information immediately on a specific substance, consult Erowid.