Caveat Emptor (what you see is (often not) what you get…….)

We seem to be hearing a lot of Latin these days (quid pro quo and all that). In a past career with DEA, I was editor, for a time, of a newsletter and journal we called Microgram. We received a never ceasing flow of mail concerning bait-and-switch in the drug trade (caveat emptor, buyer beware). Here are a couple of examples.

During the 1980’s, we began to see drugs which mimicked common ones such as heroin. Many of these were not listed as controlled (illegal) under federal or state law. They became known, collectively, as “designer drugs”, mostly synthesized by “chemists” working in clandestine labs (think of meth labs nowadays). These people ranged in qualifications from college professors to barely literate folks who followed a recipe. One such drug went by “MPPP” (1-methyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxypiperidine if you’re into formulas). This substance was first synthesized in the 1940’s as a potential competitor of meperidine, aka demerol, but was never approved by FDA. It is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, with effects similar to heroin.

Unfortunately, the manufacture method used by the bad guys produced an impurity, which was nicknamed “MPTP” (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine). Since clandestine labs are not into quality control, the mixture was put out on the street, and, as it happened, MPTP caused Parkinson-like symptoms in numerous users. Unfortunately, the symptoms were not reversable.

During that same decade, we encountered several analogs of fentanyl, a legally produced narcotic. This stuff is, dosewise, about 100 times more potent than morphine or heroin. Some of these analogs were estimated to be five times more potent than fentanyl. Numerous overdose fatalities resulted, since the substances were handled by distributors in much the same manner as the cutting of heroin. Who knew??? Fentanyl, itself, is now mass-produced or trans-shipped through Mexico. It poses a significant threat to police or other first responders who have to handle it.

Only two of caveat emptor situations out of countless others. Buyer beware!

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