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Legal "Designer Drugs" Killing in Europe, Story Floundering in Wall Street Journal

The Chinese are getting tricky and creative, plus probably rich, while Europeans are experiencing the bodily benefits and sometimes... the deadly consequences. It sounds like a 20/20 special, doesn't it? It comes from the Wall Street Journal report today on "designer drugs." Are you up on this? "With catchy nicknames like Meow Meow, Spice and NRG-1, the drugs are often sold online as 'legal highs.'" The article contains everything people on the Internet like to freak out about, namely: the Internet. But also new inventions, drugs, and Chinese people. Not to be overly cynical, but is this real?

They typically come in powder form and can be snorted, licked or packed into tablets and create highs that mimic drugs ranging from cocaine to ecstasy, which some narcotics experts say has become less available amid a world-wide effort to blunt production.

"To blunt production" -- is that a joke?

The drugs have been blamed for the deaths of two young people in the U.K. and Sweden, and authorities say they may have contributed to as many as 30 deaths in the U.K. in recent years. With some drugs selling for about €15,000 ($19,000) a kilogram, producers and dealers stand to profit.

A vague timeline when it comes to the deaths and their causes, juxtaposed with the specific price of a kilo (for "some" drugs, though?) sets the piece on shaky ground from the outset. The "raw ingredients" are obtained and cooked in China, then sent to Europe for the big bucks:

But authorities are having a hard time keeping up with all the new concoctions. As soon as one is banned, another appears, they say. Last year, 24 new "psychoactive substances" were identified in Europe, almost double the number reported in 2008, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which keeps European Union policy makers informed on the state of drug use.

Some of the products -- often disguised as "plant food," "bath salts" or "pond cleaner" online -- were first "synthesized more than a century ago," as per the article, leaving Journal readers to wonder why we're reading about them now. The article is tied specifically to the U.K.'s recent ban on naphyrone, or NRG-1, but features very little detail on the matter and absolutely no specifics, anecdotal or otherwise, of health dangers beyond the official like of the U.K. ministry. (No users are interviewed in the piece.)

Serious question: Do newspapers have a reserve of vague Young People Doing 'New' Drugs stories, to be cycled in anytime it's almost applicable? Designer Drugs Baffle Europe [Wall Street Journal]


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