RCMP, Health Canada warn content, dosage of illegal designer drugs unsafe
Wed Nov 17, 2004
PETER RAKOBOWCHUK

MONTREAL (CP) - The RCMP and Health Canada warned users of so-called designer drugs like speed and ecstacy they're playing "Russian roulette" because they don't know what they're getting.

The strength of these illegal drugs is rarely the same from pill to pill and the ingredients can differ, RCMP Sgt. Jean Lemieux said Wednesday. Some of the pills and capsules are imprinted with the logos of automobile companies like Rolls-Royce, Ferrari or Hyundai. Others have smiley faces, dollar signs or animal logos.

"Definitely there is no relation between the logo, the colour or shape of the pill and the active ingredients that we find in these substances," he told a news conference as part of national Addictions Awareness Week.

"If they hear from a friend that they used a pill with a logo and it had an effect, there's no guarantee that in two weeks the pill with the same logo will have the same ingredients.

"It's playing Russian roulette, you don't know what you're taking."

The Mounties and Health Canada decided to take a closer look at drugs such as methamphetamine and amphetamine because of their increasing popularity over the last decade, especially among those between the ages of 15 and 20.

An analysis was done of 356 samples of various substances which were seized in Quebec between October 2002 and April 2004.

The largest quantity, 315, were seized at seven raves in Montreal and Quebec City.

The others were collected during various police searches in five Quebec cities and at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Claude Rouillard of Laval University's medicine department said drugs like methamphetamine can be lethal.

"The fact that these drugs are mixed, it's very difficult to predict whether one combination or the other can kill . . but definitely, there can be death," he said.

The drug analysis report noted that, in some parts of Canada, sildenafil citrate, which is better known under the commercial brand Viagara, has also been identified in mixtures of substances sold as ecstasy.

The report also compared the Quebec results with a 2001 Vancouver study in British Columbia.

Based on the results of interviews conducted with Vancouver drug users, some users intentionally mixed drugs at raves.

However, most users believed they were consuming a single substance, while statistics indicated the contrary.

Lemieux also said marijuana is still the most popular drug ahead of cocaine and designer drugs.

"Cocaine is ranked immediately behind cannabis and followed by designer drugs and what we observe is that cocaine has stabilized and is in regress.

"What we see, on the other hand, is that designer drugs are definitely on the upswing.

"If we are talking about those aged 15, 19 or 20, the designer drugs will be more abused by the user than cocaine."