Inside the strange world of designing psychoactive drugs

The Big Story
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Automatic TRANSCRIPT

I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings and this is the big story. Joe Bruni is a writer at the Walrus. I promise he is not tripping right now Joan I Jordan. Why don't you start by telling me what is pace and just tell me about the drug? Never heard of it before well paces essentially just water and the substance called Mea I which is the active ingredient an emmy. I is It's a new drug. It was created in two thousand fifteen And it was marketed last year as an alcohol. Substitute and Binge. Drinking litigator so essentially. It's an effort to replace alcohol with the substance that at certain doses has similar Or was simply saying better effects. And how would that actually work in practice like by better effects you get drunker oddest drunk no hangover? What so. This is difficult for me to imagine. Because I actually haven't tried substance myself right by the time I started working on the story it It was illegal but from what I've heard from people who have tried it. It's a stronger drunk. And it's a feeling that you're more in control You're not slurring your speech as You're not getting like the spins. You're not falling over and that's at certain doses And then of course there are people who have exceeded those doses and at that point they report effects that are similar to things. Like ecstasy and Indiana okay. So you mentioned that it's illegal but At what point did it become illegal because it was for sale right right So it's a little tricky. It was technically never legal for sale right. The Way Canadian drug was work and struggles in a lot of the world's Are there essentially just lists of banned substances so until substance is on that list? It's not illegal to have or to us. But in order to sell a psychoactive substance you Bam you have to go through all sorts of licensing and applications to submit kind of a laundry list of studies to prove that it's safe and things like that for pace none of that took place so it was really never legal for sale. And now it's since been added to the list of controlled substances So now it's is definitely illegal. So how does the process for creating something like that work like? Where did MEA I come from? So there's a bit of a historical precedent for MEA. I it's in this family of drugs called Amino Indians. And they were first synthesized in the seventies as a potential treatment for Parkinson's disease and that didn't pan out and the pharmaceutical cook community sort of lost interest in them decades later Along comes Ezekiel Golan. Who's an Israeli chemist Sort of a career drug discoverer And he becomes interested in I mean Indians and an emmy a specifically For it's sort of pleasant effects. Okay so tell me about our career drug discover who is Zeki Golan? And what's he done so Golan he's trained as a mathematician actually his PhD in that he worked for a time. It's more accurate to say. Could he consulted for a number of major pharmaceutical companies? But then he kind of went his own way and for about two decades now. He's been creating new drugs. And sort of licensing the patents to the more or against the less scrupulous people who then synthesize and sell them on the black market. Soglo has been doing this for a while now. He only recently settled in. Canada was featured in a few BBC documentaries back in what was kind of his heyday in the EU He had a lab in Amsterdam. So he's sort of this infamous figure in the world of underground designer drugs. Okay so you're GonNa have to explain something to me Like I'm that kid who barely scrape by and science. How does a guy like that go about making a new designer drug? Like what do you do so there are these computer programs? It's called Kevin from addicts software. It's essentially like a three d blueprint of the molecular structure. That you have on your screen and that you can alter and make adjustments to and then you can analyze these new structures eve created. You can get some idea of what their effects might be. And then once he has a blueprint that he feels his promising he would export that and send it to a lab elsewhere where the actual chemists would synthesize it and sent him back samples. And what does he do with the samples so what? He Does the samples is he. He takes them he test them on himself. He's a little more responsible than I'm probably making it sound. But he does test everything on himself. He he'll start from a very small dose and he'll ramp it up carefully serve recording any effects. He experiences an of course stopping at the first sign of of anything miss. What is the process? Let's let's say you know He. He sends off this molecule and he gets back the substance and he starts trying it and he thinks lake with Ma. I that he's onto something if he's not doing it for like pharmaceutical corporations that create new medicines. What's the purpose behind doing this? He can't sell it. What's the process behind China? Make it legal or capitalize on it. Glenn is the theory Libertarian Mindset. When it comes to drugs he believes that you know free free adults consenting adults should be able to try what they want And so that's I think. Part of what motivates his crusade almost is. He he's excited by substances and the ones he enjoys and he just wants to

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