Schnoll SH, Vogel WH.
“Analysis of street drugs”.
N Engl J Med. 1971 Mar 8;284(14):791.
To the Editor: The use of illicit drugs is widespread and new drugs or drug mixtures are continually being offered to the buyer. Since it is generally believed that many street drug samples do not contain their alleged contents, we have been collecting street drugs in Philadelphia and at various rock festivals over the last six months and have been analyzing these samples.
The samples were analyzed by thin-layer chromatography after pulverization and extraction with methanol. After development, the plates were subjected to various sprays. Identification and quantitation of the compounds was obtained by comparison of Rf values, color reactions and densities with those of known reference compounds. In some cases we obtained confirmation by developing the plates in a different solvent system.
The results obtained were as follows: of 10 samples sold as LSD, eight contained only LSD, and the other two contained LSD, one in combination with a compound that behaved like strychnine and the other with a compound that behaved like scopolamine. Four of 10 samples sold as mescaline consisted of LSD, two of LSD and scopolamine, one of ground peyote buttons, and one of phencyclidine, caffeine, aspirin, phenacetin and butalbital (Fiorinal), and one capsule could not be identified. Three samples sold as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained no THC but a compound with a chromatographic behavior like that of phencyclidine. Two samples sold as combinations, THC with psilocybin and THC with psilocybin and mescaline, contained only LSD.
During the collection of the samples it was noted that the sale of alleged THC on the illicit drug market has increased recently. Interviews with drug users indicate that there is a fear of LSD-induced chromosomal damage and a desire to use naturally occurring (organics) rather than laboratorysynthesized (synthetics) compounds. Since most drug users consider marihuana not to be harmful, they believe that THC is also harmless even though it has greater potency. At present, phencyclidine appears to be the most commonly used compound in alleged THC samples. Phencyclidine is an anesthetic agent that is no longer sold for human use but is still used in veterinary medicine. The drug can produce general sensory deprivation, nystagmus, ataxia, slurred speech and a schizoid state with lethargy that can change to excitement as the drug effects wear off.1-3 In animals high doses of the drug produce convulsions.4
The results are in agreement with those of Cheek et al.5 and demonstrate that deceit is great on the illicit drug market, that LSD seems to be available freely at present whereas the supply of THC and mescaline is either nonexistent or limited, that a history of the use of a particular street drug by a person may not be reliable, that correlations between the clinical response and the use of a particular street drug are highly speculative and that clinical treatment should be symptomatic since it is difficult to know exactly what compound the user has taken.
S. H. Schnoll M.D.
W. H. Vogel PhD
Thomas Jefferson University
Jefferson Medical College
1. Greifenstein FE, De Vault M, Yoshitabe J, et al: A strufy of 1-aryl-cyclo-hexyl-amine for anaesthesia. Ansethes Analg (Cleve) 37:283, 1958
2. Meyer JS, Greifinstein F, De Vault M: A new drug causing symptoms of sensory depression. J Nerv Ment Dis 129:54, I 959
3. Luby EB, lven BO, Rosenbaum G, et al: Study of a new schizophrenomimetic drug - Sernyl. Arch Neurol Psychol 81 :363, 1959
4. Chen G, Ensor CR, Russell D. et al: The pharmacology of I( 1-phcncyclohexyl) piperidine HCI. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 127:241,1959
5. Cheek FE. Newell S, Joffee M: Deceptions in the illicit drug market. Science 167:1226, 1970