Research Chemicals

Research chemicals are collectively a type of new psychoactive substance (NPS), each of which is a synthetic version of an established psychoactive substance. Research chemicals are often marketed and sold as the pure active ingredients found in other synthetic drugs, yet the reality is that they do not always contain what is listed on the label. Essentially, they are synthetic or designer drugs intended for recreational use yet labeled “research chemicals” to evade law enforcement efforts. Using research chemicals can lead to consequences that include overdose and addiction, but treatment can stop this path.

What Are Research Chemicals?

Research chemicals are human-made substances created to provide effects that are similar to various psychoactive drugs. They tend to be inexpensive to make and purchase, and they provide an intense high that makes them desirable. Research chemicals are synthetic or designer drugs and are included in the classification of new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Research chemicals can be synthetic versions of legitimate research or prescription drugs, or they can be the active ingredient found in other synthetic drugs. However, the labeling is often misleading, and research chemicals tend to contain different drug types or doses than what is listed.

While these drugs are called “research chemicals,” they are designed and sold for recreational purposes. They are simply labeled as research chemicals to avoid classification as controlled or illegal substances. Manufacturers often use currently legal chemicals and commonly change the drugs from batch to batch to avoid legal repercussions.

The use of research chemicals has the potential to lead to addiction and overdose. Professional treatment provides support to overcome a dependence on these drugs and stop behaviors associated with addiction.

Types of Research Chemicals

Research chemicals contain psychoactive substances of varying types and amounts. The ingredients are often not listed—or not listed correctly—and vary batch-by-batch, so the purchaser will not definitively know what he or she is taking.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation explains that active ingredients found in numerous NPS can be classified as research chemicals. The labeling of research chemicals often includes these main active ingredients, yet the labeling is not always accurate.

Some research chemicals are synthetic versions of real research drugs. One example is W-18, which is an opioid-like research drug created by chemists that has shown painkilling ability. Legitimate companies sell limited amounts to purchasers with DEA licenses allowing them to possess controlled substances. However, labs in Asia have been designing and selling synthetic versions of W-18 on the Internet.

Manufacturers of research chemicals will often slightly modify the chemical makeup of a drug to create a new derivative. For example, labs have been creating new derivatives of opioids to sell on the Internet. Manufacturers design a new drug that is not listed as a controlled or illegal substance, and they continually change the formula to stay ahead of legal systems.

Research chemicals often include combinations of drugs that have included pharmaceuticals, controlled substances, and adulterants. Some drugs that have been found in research chemicals include:

  • Tryptamines
  • Phenethylamines
  • Synthetic opioids
  • Mephedrone
  • Methoxetamine
  • Piperazine derivatives
  • Aminoindanes
  • Cathinones