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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:
- Synthetic opioids
- Piperazine derivatives