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'Legal highs' often caused by illegal substances, research shows

May 20, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Drugs marketed online as "legal highs" sometimes contain controlled substances.
Drugs marketed online as "legal highs" sometimes contain controlled… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Turns out those products being marketed as producing 'legal' highs -- highs not produced by a banned substance -- are not at all what they seem, according to research published online Thursday in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis.

Appearing as such banal products as bath salts or plant food, the chemicals are nonetheless marketed for and purchased by recreational drug users, according to study author Mark Baron, a chemist at the University of Lincoln in England.

Baron bought several of the advertised drugs online and then tested their contents. He found that out of seven product samples, six didn't contain the supposed active ingredient that had been advertised -- and five of them contained two controlled substances, benzylpiperazine (BZP) and trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine, mixed with caffeine.

Baron cautioned against purchasing such drugs on the Internet -- they're difficult for government agencies to regulate, and often the same product from different vendors may contain very different ingredients.

The upshot? If it sounds too good to be legal, it probably is. 

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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