A new illicit, and deadly, drug makes the rounds

From the Los Angeles Times:

A new, dangerous illicit drug may be gaining in popularity in several countries, according to a report issued Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

The drug, phenazepam, is a benzodiazepine used for the treatment of epilepsy. It is no longer prescribed in the United States and several other countries. But it's available in some Eastern European nations and may be distributed via the Internet.

Doctors in Scotland reported nine cases of overdose deaths in which phenazepam was found in blood samples. Two deaths have been linked to the drug in the United States within the last year.

Posted: 7/8/2011 10:13:00 AM

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Alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers in development

From the Telegraph (UK):

An alcohol substitute that mimics its pleasant buzz without leading to drunkenness and hangovers is being developed by scientists.

The new substance could have the added bonus of being "switched off" instantaneously with a pill, to allow drinkers to drive home or return to work.

The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.

But unlike alcohol its does not affect other parts of the brain that control mood swings and lead to addiction. It is also much easier to flush out of the body.

Finally because it is much more focused in its effects, it can also be switched off with an antidote, leaving the drinker immediately sober.

The new alcohol is being developed by a team at Imperial College London, led by Professor David Nutt, Britain's top drugs expert.

Prof Nutt and his team are concentrating their efforts on benzodiazepines, of which diazepam, the chief ingredient of Valium is one.

Thousands of candidate benzos are already known to science. He said it is just a matter of identifying the closest match and then, if necessary, tailoring it to fit society’s needs.

Eventually it would be used to replace the alcohol content in beer, wine and spirits and the recovered ethanol (the chemical name for alcohol) could be sold as fuel.

Professor Nutt believes that the new drug, which would need licensing, could have a dramatic effect on society and improve the nation's health.

Getting the drug approved could be hard for the team as clinical trials are expensive, and it is not clear who would pay for them, according to Professor Nutt.

Posted: 12/29/2009 9:22:00 AM

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