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Prescription Drug Found in Synthetic Cannabis Product

Press Release – Science Media Centre

The Science Media Centre contacted experts for more information on the detection of phenazepam in Pineapple Express.Prescription Drug Found in Synthetic Cannabis Product – Experts Respond

The Ministry of Health announced today that a particular variety of the ‘synthetic cannabis’ smoking blends, Kronic – Pineapple Express, is being recalled due to the presence of a prescription drug.

Herbal smoking blends treated with legal, psychoactive synthetic cannabinoids have been causing public debate over their effects and accessibility.

Testing conducted by ESR revealed that the Pineapple Express variety of the legal smoking blend Kronic also contained the controlled benzodiazepine drug, phenazepam.

You can read the Ministry of Health press release here.

The Science Media Centre contacted experts for more information on the detection of phenazepam in Pineapple Express.

Dr Keith Bedford is the General Manager of forensic research at Environmental Science and Research (ESR):

“ESR has been monitoring the situation with these so-called “legal highs” since 2009, when Spice was the first such product that came to widespread notice. Since that time, we have been asked to test various products or material by Customs, the Ministry of Health and police.

“This finding was not expected. We were simply screening the product when this unexpected peak jumped out at us. It turned out to be phenazepam. …

“My suspicion is that phenazepam is contributing to the effects of the product, including reports of adverse effects. I think that has clouded the public debate on these synthetic cannabinoids, because in my opinion it is quite probable that at least part of the adverse effects have been due to this adulterated Pineapple Express product, which seems to be one of the more common products in the market. …
“You’ve got a cocktail of four synthetic cannabinoids plus phenazepam in Pineapple Express.
“What the combined effect of that cocktail would be is unknown, let alone in combination with other substances that might be consumed, such as alcohol. There’s a potential for quite unexpected kinds of adverse reactions.

“In the literature, I’ve seen suggestion that there are a significant number of these synthetic cannabinoid-type substances in circulation. One report named 35, another suggested there might be 80 or more. We’ve seen about a dozen of them in New Zealand in one product or another.

“In terms of toxicology and pharmacology, I think there’s an appalling lack of information available on these substances.

“I strongly support classifying these as restricted substances, which puts a significant amount of regulation and control around them, without banning them.”

To read Dr Bedford’s full comments see here.

Dr Paul Gee, Emergency Medicine Specialist at Christchurch Hospital:

“Phenazepam is a sedative anticonvulsant. It belongs to the benzodiazepine class which includes valium and clonazepam. It was developed in the Soviet Union in 1975 but is not widely used as a medicine. Phenazepam has been used in the treatment of neurological disorders such as epilepsy, drug withdrawal and anxiety disorders. It is very potent and long acting
It has become a drug of abuse as it is not controlled in many countries.

“Its extreme potency makes titrating effect difficult and overdose is therefore more likely. Recreational use in combination with other drugs has resulted in deaths. The most common routes of use are ingestion and injection. Only basic chemical data is available and it does not appear to be heat stable. Applying heat will cause pyrolysis releasing chlorine and bromine.”


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