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Dangerous Club Drug Knockoffs Surge
Jul 23, 2003
USA Today
Original URL unavailable Oct 2003:
USA TODAY July 23, 2002 -- Drug dealers hoping to capitalize on the popularity of club drugs are trying to pass off a variety of chemicals concoctions as Ecstasy pills.

The pills are appearing at dance clubs and all-night dance parties or raves in California, Oregon, Ohio, Florida and at least 10 other states. Last month, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued an alert for two of the drugs, known as Foxy and AMT.

Although drug experts regard Ecstasy as harmful itself, health and law enforcement officials warn that the use of research chemicals is particularly hazardous because scientists have not studied their effects. The Florida warning calls the drugs ''potentially dangerous.''

Of particular concern are:

* Foxy, also called Methoxy Foxy, which is known chemically as 5-MeO-DIPT. It is a hallucinogen that comes in tablets and capsules. Users report diarrhea, nausea, severe anxiety and a high or ''buzzing'' that can last 14 hours.

* AMT, also called IT-290 and known chemically as alpha-methyltryptamine. It is a hallucinogen that usually comes in a capsule with orange or off-white powder. Users experience increased energy, empathy, visual patterns, nausea, headaches, vomiting and jaw clenching.

The chemicals used to produce the fake Ecstasy tablets and capsules are sold legally for scientific use. However, dealers who purchase them, usually via the Internet, and sell them can be prosecuted under federal and state laws that ban trafficking in drugs that mimic the effects of illegal drugs.

Both drugs mimic some of the effects of Ecstasy, which has stimulant and hallucinogenic properties and produces a feeling of sensuous well-being. Foxy and AMT, however, produce more intense hallucinations without the warm and fuzzy feeling.

''About half the pills we test are not (Ecstasy),'' says Tim Santamour, executive director of DanceSafe. His organization tests pills for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the chemical component of Ecstasy, in an effort to reduce harm on users, most of whom are in their teens or 20s.

''Drug dealers know there is a market for Ecstasy right now, and they are willing to put their customers at risk,'' Santamour says. ''It's a black market so there's no regulation.''

Ecstasy users who end up with Foxy or AMT are in for a ''big surprise,'' he says. ''The high is nothing like that of Ecstasy. It's a psychedelic trip.''

AMT and Foxy are the most recent additions to a list of Ecstasy fakes that users call ''bunk.'' Dealers also try to pass off pain relievers, caffeine, amphetamines and a chemical used in cough suppressant as Ecstasy.