Police and emergency workers in the UK have warned addicts over the growing availability of a synthetic drug that seems to give users super-human strength and leaves them in a dangerous zombie-like state. Similar to PCP, the substance is said to have caused some users to jump off high buildings and others to rip the flesh from other people’s faces with their teeth. Monkey Dust, which gained notoriety under the moniker “Bath Salts” in the US several years ago, is the street name for Methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinohexiophenone (MDPHP), a synthetic cathinone stimulant. It can be bought for as little as £2 ($2.54) per dose on the streets of Britain, where it is reported to have left many users in a state of psychosis, roaming around towns and cities at night, throwing their bodies about the place while screaming and shouting incoherently.
In a statement issued last week, Staffordshire Police Chief Superintendent Jeff Moore said his force had recorded 950 incidents involving the drug over a three-month period, noting how the highly-unpredictable substance makes users difficult to deal with, and poses a risk to both addicts and those around them. Moore said people who take the drug can be affected by it for several days, and that emergency workers often struggle to provide them with treatment, due to the differing effect the substance can have on people. The police chief spoke out after the death of two drug users was linked to the consumption of Monkey Dust by West Mercia Police last month. Speaking with the BBC last week, North Staffordshire health worker Debbie Moores described the substance as one of the most harmful drugs she and her colleagues have ever encountered, noting: “The impact on agencies is huge and it takes us away from what we are supposed to be doing.”
While Monkey Dust is classified only as a Class B drug in the UK, suggesting it poses a similar threat to users as cannabis, and could be purchased legally until the introduction of the New Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, it is known to reduce users’ perception of pain, remove inhibitions and cause vivid hallucinations and acute paranoia. Also referred to as “Cannibal Dust” and “Zombie Dust”, the drug causes users’ body temperatures to rise rapidly, and is said to make their perspiration smell of seafood. Police have described attempting to restrain Monkey Dust users as akin to trying to deal with the Incredible Hulk, noting how the drug appears to imbue those who take it with super-human strength. “People can remain in this state for two or three days, which is putting a significant strain on our resources, and that of our partners, such as the ambulance and the hospital,” Moore said.
The devastating effect the drug can have on people has been attracting high levels of media attention for years in the US, where its use has been widely documented from around the turn of the decade. In 2012, a naked man who was reported to have consumed Bath Salts was shot dead by police after ripping off a homeless man’s face with his teeth. Ronald Poppo lost an eye and most of his facial features when he was attacked by Rudy Eugene, during an attack witnesses described as looking like something out of a zombie film. In May of this year, police in Florida said they had arrested a woman who gouged her mother’s eyeballs out with glass shards before killing her while high on the drug. Camille Balla, 32, is said to have admitted murdering her mother when officers arrived at the property they shared. While Britain has yet to witness cases as depraved as these linked to the use of Monkey Dust, the fact that the substance appears to be growing in popularity in the UK only makes these types of incidents more likely.
Some drug workers have expressed the hope that the growing use of Monkey Dust across the UK is part of a passing fad, and that the drug’s increasing popularity will soon wane. This is unlikely. Much in the same way that other new psychoactive substances such as synthetic cannabinoids including Spice and Black Mamba have, Monkey Dust will likely grow in popularity among vulnerable groups such as the homeless and prisoners, who will remain attracted to it thanks its potency, low price and the ease with which it can be obtained. The sad truth of the matter is that these types of substances have become more attractive to many addicts than more traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine. While curious casual users will likely soon realise that consuming Monkey Dust is not a good idea, those seeking oblivion will view it as an easy and cheap way to achieve their goal.
Unfortunately, substances such as these will likely remain popular all the while countries such as the UK refuse to ditch their regressive drugs policies. While the debate around legalising or at least decriminalising substances such as heroin and cocaine is extremely complex, dealing with addicts as individuals who require treatment rather than punishment, as countries such as Norway are doing, might go some way to ensuring these types of substances are unable to trap our most vulnerable citizens in a stranglehold from which some of them will be unable to escape.
Taking cocaine will not cure people struck down with the coronavirus, French government warns public
Authorities in France have been forced to inform the public that taking cocaine will not cure people infected with the coronavirus.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday, the French Ministry for Solidarity and Health told its followers that cocaine is not only ineffective when it comes to fighting the coronavirus, but is also a highly addictive drug that can cause serious harm to users’ health.
The government department was seeking to counter fake news circulating on social media that taking the drug could cure or prevent the virus, including doctored news stories that appeared to confirm the drug’s effectiveness at fighting the disease.
The ministry’s Twitter post included a link to a government information page that provided further guidance on disinformation circulating about the coronavirus outbreak.
As well as encouraging those worried about the coronavirus to start taking cocaine, online trolls have also suggested that bleach can also help fight the disease.
In a post on Twitter that has attracted many thousands of engagements, @Jordan_Sather_ told his followers: “Would you look at that. Not only is chlorine dioxide (aka ‘MMS’) an effective cancer cell killer, it can wipe out coronavirus too.
“No wonder YouTube has been censoring basically every single video where I discuss it over the last year.”
In August of 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about that dangers of consuming bleach, noting: “Drinking any… chlorine dioxide products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.”
As well as warning about cocaine’s inability to fight the coronavirus, the French government has also told members of the public that spraying bleach or alcohol on their bodies will not neutralise viruses they have already been infected with.
Elsewhere, US Vodka maker Tito’s Homemade was last week forced to urge people not to make DIY hand sanitiser out of its products.
Responding to one of its customers who said they had done just that, the company said on Twitter: “Per the CDC [Centres for Disease Control and Prevention], hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC. Please see attached for more information.”
For its part, the World Health Organisation, which today officially categorised the coronavirus as a pandemic, has published a webpage dispelling misinformation about the disease, noting that the virus cannot be killed of avoided by taking a hot bath or using hand dryers.
Californian border officers catch Mexican man with enough fentanyl to kill 1.2 million people
Customs workers in California have arrested a Mexican man after finding enough fentanyl stashed in his vehicle to kill 1.2 million people.
Officers from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pulled the man over during a traffic stop while he was travelling in a Toyota Camry close to the city of Escondido.
During a search of the man’s vehicle, a sniffer dog indicated that the car contained illicit drugs.
After investigating further, CBP agents discovered several secret compartments that had been created in both the front and rear seats of the vehicle.
These were found to be concealing 18 foil-wrapped packages that tests later confirmed to contain nearly 19kgs of cocaine and just over 2.4kgs of fentanyl.
In total, the drugs found in the man’s vehicle had an estimated street value of almost $560,000.
The 49-year-old Mexican was handed over to officers from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, while the vehicle was seized by US Border Patrol.
Last week, CBP said agents working in Arizona close to the US border with Mexico had detained two 15-year-old US nationals who were alleged to have been attempting to smuggle fentanyl through a checkpoint while travelling as passengers in a van.
The occupants of the vehicle were referred for searches after a sniffer dog alerted its handlers to the fact that drugs might be present.
On further inspection, officers found the two teenagers had a combined total of more than 1kg of fentanyl taped to their legs, roughly equal to 540,000 lethal doses.
The two juveniles were held by police on drug smuggling charges, while the fentanyl they were carrying and the vehicle they were travelling in were seized.
As little as two milligrams of fentanyl can prove fatal for humans if absorbed through the skin, inhaled or swallowed.
In April of last year, an internal memo obtained by military news site Task & Purpose revealed that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was considering reclassifying fentanyl as “a weapon of mass destruction”.
The DHS said in its memo that the toxicity of the drug made it a suitable candidate to be categorised as a non-conventional chemical weapon, adding: “Fentanyl’s high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking non-conventional materials for a chemical weapons attack.”
DHS Assistant Secretary for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction James McDonnell wrote: “In July 2018, the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate assessed that… fentanyl is very likely a viable option for a chemical weapon attack by extremists or criminals.”
European crackdown on illicit pharmaceutical traffickers breaks up 12 organised crime networks
A Europe-wide operation targeting illicit pharmaceutical traffickers has resulted in the dismantling of 12 organised crime networks and 165 arrests.
Supported by Europol, the third iteration of Operation MISMED involved customs, law enforcement and health and regulatory authorities in France, Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Britain and the US, among other countries.
In total, the third Operation MISMED saw investigators seize almost 36 million units of medicine, including pseudoephedrine, anti-cancer drugs, antihistamines, anxiolytics, erectile dysfunction tablets, hormone and metabolic regulators, narcotics, painkillers, antioestrogens, antivirals, hypnotics and doping substances.
The initiative, which took place between July and October last year, saw assets worth almost €1.5 million ($1.66 million) recovered, and some €7.9 million confiscated from the criminal organisations targeted in the operation.
In a statement outlining the success of the effort, Europol outlined a range of worrying new trends in the trafficking of illicit pharmaceuticals across Europe, including a growing market for oncologic medicines stolen from hospitals.
The agency also said that Asia remains the main source of illicit medicines and doping products that are sold in Europe.
“Medicines are diverted from the legal supply chain by wholesalers and resold to criminal groups,” Europol said.
“Medicines are illegally obtained with forged or stolen medical prescriptions, with or without the help of doctors and pharmacists, and then resold to criminal groups or individuals directly.”
Over the course of the three years it has been running, Operation MISMED has resulted in 123 million units of illegal medicines and doping substances worth €500 million being taken off the streets, the arrest of 600 suspects, and the breakup of 49 organised crime groups.
The first iteration of the initiative, which took place back in 2017, resulted in the seizure of 75 million units of medicine and doping substances with a combined estimated street value of over €230 million.
The operation also led to the launch of 205 separate investigations and the identification of 277 suspects, of whom 111 were arrested.
Operation MISMED 2, which as carried out between April and October in 2018, saw the seizure of smuggled medicines estimated to be worth more than €165 million, as well as the arrest of 435 people suspected of being involved in the illicit trafficking of misused medicines.
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