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Concept: Convention on Psychotropic Substances


The synthesis, tautomerism and antibacterial activity of novel barbiturates is reported. In particular, 3-acyl and 3-carboxamidobarbiturates exhibited antibacterial activity, against susceptible and some resistant Gram-positive strains of particular interest is that these systems possess amenable molecular weight, rotatable bonds and number of proton-donors/acceptors for drug design as well as less lipophilic character, with physicochemical properties and ionic states that are similar to current antibiotic agents for oral and injectable use. Unfortunately, the reduction of plasma protein affinity by the barbituric core is not sufficient to achieve activity in vivo. Further optimization to reduce plasma protein affinity and/or elevate antibiotic potency is therefore required, but we believe that these systems offer unusual opportunities for antibiotic drug discovery.

Concepts: Barbituric acid, Electrochemistry, Barbiturate, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Benzodiazepine, Pharmaceutical drug, Pharmacology, Ethanol


Self-mutilation (SM) not only occurs among patients with schizophrenia, personality disorders or transsexuality but also as a phenomenon induced by psychotropic substances (PS). We intended to find characteristics of patients at risk to perform SM induced by PS (SMIPS), frequent PS within this phenomenon and typical presentations of SMIPS. A systematic review of the literature (including Medline, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Scopus) was conducted. On October 2011 we identified 26 cases (23 publications) of SM related to PS. Majority of patients (85%) was male, mean age was 30 years (median 41 years). Seventy-three percent of patients developed SM subsequent to the use of one PS, 27% presented SM after the use of more than one PS. Alcohol (25%), hallucinogens (25%) and amphetamines (22%) were found most frequently among the reported substances. Major impairment was present in 80%. Our findings suggest male sex, young age, a previous history of abuse of PS and the current use of alcohol, hallucinogens or amphetamines to favour SMIPS.

Concepts: Ketamine, Randomized controlled trial, Systematic review, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Evidence-based medicine


The rise in popularity of “bath salts” as safe alternatives to MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), methamphetamine, and other illicit substances has resulted in increased scrutiny of the contents and toxicology associated with these products. We report a case of sudden death related to the synthetic cathinone methylone (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylcathinonmethylone) in a previously healthy 19-year-old man. Although several fatal case reports have been published involving methylone and other synthetic cathinones, this is the first reported case of sudden cardiac death associated with methylone use. Although lack of published data prevented a comparison of blood methylone concentrations between our case and existing reports, the amount of methylone we detected postmortem (0.07 mg/dL) is below those reported in MDMA-related fatalities. Our report suggests that methylone toxicity has been greatly underestimated by users of this synthetic cathinone.

Concepts: Cathine, Euphoriants, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Cathinones, Cardiac arrest, MDMA, Sudden cardiac death, Report


Amphetamine-type substances (ATS), like other synthetically derived compounds, can be produced by a multitude of synthetic pathways using a variety of precursors and reagents, resulting in a large number of possible contaminants (by-products, intermediates and impurities). This review article describes the common contaminants found in preparations of methylamphetamine (MA), 3,4-methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA), amphetamine (AP), N,N-dimethylamphetamine (DMA) and p-methoxyamphetamine (PMA) synthesised via common synthetic pathways including reductive amination, Leuckart method, Nagai method, Emde method, Birch reduction, “Moscow” method, Wacker process, “Nitrostyrene” method and the Peracid oxidation method. Contaminants can facilitate identification of the synthetic route, origin of precursors and may suggest information as to the location of manufacture of these illicit drugs. Contaminant profiling can provide vital intelligence for investigations in which linking seizures or identifying the synthetic pathway is essential. This review article presents an accessible resource; a compilation of contaminants resulting from a variety of manufacturing methods used to synthesise the most common ATS. It is important for research in this field to continue as valuable information can be extracted from illicit drug samples, increasing discrimination amongst ATS, and in turn, leading to an increase in evidential value and forensic drug intelligence from forensic drug samples.

Concepts: Heroin, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Methamphetamine, Clandestine chemistry, Drug, Illegal drug trade, Amphetamine, MDMA


Abused drugs can profoundly alter mental states in ways that may motivate drug use. These effects are usually assessed with self-report, an approach that is vulnerable to biases. Analyzing speech during intoxication may present a more direct, objective measure, offering a unique ‘window’ into the mind. Here, we employed computational analyses of speech semantic and topological structure after ±3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; ‘ecstasy’) and methamphetamine in 13 ecstasy users. In 4 sessions, participants completed a 10-minute speech task after MDMA (0.75, 1.5 mg/kg), methamphetamine (20 mg), or placebo. Latent Semantic Analyses identified the semantic proximity between speech content and concepts relevant to drug effects. Graph-based analyses identified topological speech characteristics. Group-level drug effects on semantic distances and topology were assessed. Machine-learning analyses (with leave-one-out cross-validation) assessed whether speech characteristics could predict drug condition in the individual subject. Speech after MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) had greater semantic proximity than placebo to the concepts friend, support, intimacy, and rapport. Speech on MDMA (0.75 mg/kg) had greater proximity to empathy than placebo. Conversely, speech on methamphetamine was further from compassion than placebo. Classifiers discriminated between MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) and placebo with 88% accuracy, and MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) and methamphetamine with 84% accuracy. For the two MDMA doses, the classifier performed at chance. These data suggest that automated semantic speech analyses can capture subtle alterations in mental state, accurately discriminating between drugs. The findings also illustrate the potential for automated speech-based approaches to characterize clinically-relevant alterations to mental state, including those occurring in psychiatric illness.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article peview online, 03 April 2014; doi:10.1038/npp.2014.80.

Concepts: Drug, Psychedelic drug, Psychoactive drug, Recreational drug use, Amphetamine, Metric space, Methamphetamine, Convention on Psychotropic Substances


The pharmacokinetics of different barbiturates has been studied extensively and the relationship of their duration of action to their clinical use has been known for decades. While these particular compounds have largely been displaced by agents with better therapeutic indices, barbiturate use remains relatively common and important in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Their mechanism of action is to bind to inhibitory GABAA receptors in the CNS causing and potentiating the opening of neuronal chloride ion channels thus having a sedative and CNS depressant effect. All psychotropic barbiturates feature di-substitution at the C5 position of the barbituric acid prototype. This is also the primary factor by which physiologically active barbiturates differ from one another and a major mediator of lipophilicity and duration of action. However, in this review, inconsistencies in certain commonly held notions about the structure-activity relationship of barbiturates were found. Commonly accepted chemistry for the structure-activity relationship of barbiturates holds that substitution of larger alkyl groups, alicyclic, and aromatic groups, as well as branching and unsaturation, lead in general to more lipophilic compounds with a longer biological half-life. This rationale may have limitations in the case of barbiturates as proposed in this review. There is poor correlation between nine clinically used barbiturates' octanol:water partition coefficients (log(P) values) and their respective half-lives. However, a strong correlation between pKa values and half-life was found. The current clinical relevance of these findings is discussed as well as their pertinence to future design and use of barbiturates.

Concepts: Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Biological half-life, Barbituric acid, Depressant, GABAA receptor, Anticonvulsant, Barbiturate, Benzodiazepine


Urine drug screens are commonly performed to identify drug use or monitor adherence to drug therapy. The purpose of this retrospective study was to evaluate the true positive and false positive rates of one of our in-house urine drug screen panels. The urine drugs of abuse panel studied consists of screening by immunoassay then positive immunoassay results were confirmed by mass spectrometry. Reagents from Syva and Microgenics were used for the immunoassay screen. The screen was performed on a Beckman AU5810 random access automated clinical analyzer. The percent of true positives for each immunoassay was determined. Agreement with previously validated GC-MS or LC-MS-MS confirmatory methods was also evaluated. There were 8,825 de-identified screening results for each of the drugs in the panel, except for alcohol (N = 2,296). The percent of samples that screened positive were: 10.0% for amphetamine/methamphetamine/3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), 12.8% for benzodiazepines, 43.7% for opiates (including oxycodone) and 20.3% for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The false positive rate for amphetamine/methamphetamine was ∼14%, ∼34% for opiates (excluding oxycodone), 25% for propoxyphene and 100% for phencyclidine and MDMA immunoassays. Based on the results from this retrospective study, the true positive rate for THC drug use among adults were similar to the rate of illicit drug use in young adults from the 2013 National Survey; however, our positivity rate for cocaine was higher than the National Survey.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Illegal drug trade, Controlled Substances Act, Opioid, Type I and type II errors, Drug test, Drug addiction


MDMA (“ecstasy”) is widely used as a recreational drug, although there has been some debate about its neurotoxic effects in humans. However, most studies have investigated subjects with heavy use patterns, and the effects of transient MDMA use are unclear. In this review, we therefore focus on subjects with moderate use patterns, in order to assess the evidence for harmful effects. We searched for studies applying neuroimaging techniques in man. Studies were included if they provided at least one group with an average of<50 lifetime episodes of ecstasy use or an average lifetime consumption of<100 ecstasy tablets. All studies published before July 2015 were included. Of the 250 studies identified in the database search, 19 were included. There is no convincing evidence that moderate MDMA use is associated with structural or functional brain alterations in neuroimaging measures. The lack of significant results was associated with high methodological heterogeneity in terms of dosages and co-consumption of other drugs, low quality of studies and small sample sizes.

Concepts: Faith No More, Illegal drug trade, Neuroimaging, Amphetamine, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Drug, Sample size, Recreational drug use


MDMA, better known as the recreational drug “ecstasy,” is well known for stimulating a feeling of closeness and empathy in its users. We advocate that exploring its mechanism of action could lead to new treatments for psychiatric conditions characterized by impairments in social behavior.

Concepts: Human behavior, Illegal drug trade, Recreational drug use, Controlled Substances Act, Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, Psychology, Convention on Psychotropic Substances


Previous placebo-controlled experimental studies have shown that a single dose of MDMA can increase emotional empathy in the multifaceted empathy test (MET) without affecting cognitive empathy. Although sufficiently powered to detect main effects of MDMA, these studies were generally underpowered to also validly assess contributions of additional parameters, such as sex, drug use history, trait empathy and MDMA or oxytocin plasma concentrations. The present study examined the robustness of the MDMA effect on empathy and investigated the moderating role of these additional parameters. Participants ( n = 118) from six placebo-controlled within-subject studies and two laboratories were included in the present pooled analysis. Empathy (MET), MDMA and oxytocin plasma concentrations were assessed after oral administration of MDMA (single dose, 75 or 125 mg). Trait empathy was assessed using the interpersonal reactivity index. We confirmed that MDMA increased emotional empathy at both doses without affecting cognitive empathy. This MDMA-related increase in empathy was most pronounced during presentation of positive emotions as compared with negative emotions. MDMA-induced empathy enhancement was positively related to MDMA blood concentrations measured before the test, but independent of sex, drug use history and trait empathy. Oxytocin concentrations increased after MDMA administration but were not associated with behavioral effects. The MDMA effects on emotional empathy were stable across laboratories and doses. Sex did not play a moderating role in this effect, and oxytocin levels, trait empathy and drug use history were also unrelated. Acute drug exposure was of significant relevance in the MDMA-induced emotional empathy elevation.

Concepts: Methamphetamine, Affect, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Effect, Emotion, MDMA, Empathy, Psychology