Friday, January 14, 2011

Truth is definitely stranger than fiction. The plot of ‘The Cinelli Vases’ (which went off to the printers a few days ago and came back yesterday to be proof read) revolves around the invention of a super recreational drug discovered by a Swiss scientist and potentially worth a fortune that everyone naturally wants to get their hands on.
Now I read an American scientist is complaining about the misuse of scientific research to create designer drugs! Writing in the journal ‘Nature,’ Professor David Nichols of Purdue University, Indiana, says he is "haunted" by deaths linked to a drug based on his own research. MTA or "flatliners" used a blueprint published by the professor and was sold as a "legal high", drugs which mimic the effects of illegal substances. It has since been banned as a class-A drug in the UK. Back in the 1990s, Professor Nichols and colleagues were experimenting with chemicals similar to the one used in the drug ecstasy. The hope was their research might lead to new drugs to treat depression. He published three papers on the effects on rats of one chemical called 4-methylthioamphetamine or MTA. It later emerged the work had been used to create pills dubbed "flatliners", which were linked with at least six deaths. But it is only recently that the professor has become fully aware of how the designer drugs industry has been systematically mining his work for recipes.
Professor Nichols says MTA, and other chemicals he has developed, can be created in a kitchen laboratory.
"It is something that someone with a PhD, if they're really determined to do it, could probably set up in a laboratory in their kitchen. If they could get the necessary chemicals, they could make some of these things, but these drugs are being made on a much larger scale than just the occasional chemist with the curiosity. It sounds like these things have really become a small industry."
The professor is by no means the only scientist to have his work plundered by the drug makers. He says several synthetic drugs which mimic the effects of cannabis have been developed using data from publicly available scientific literature. The British authorities have moved to ban a host of "legal highs" in recent years. So my plot ain’t that far-fetched at all. Similarly I was a bit worried about the deaths of my Yakusa and my Triad; the one shooting the other and simultaneously having his head taken off, but it IS possible. I read of the governor in the Philippines who recently was shot dead and who, taking a photograph of his family, simultaneously and accidentally photographed his killer who was standing behind and to one side of them. So there you are, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

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