Synthetic Cannabinoids and the New Drug Crisis

Posted in Uncategorized on September 18, 2021 by Dr. Steven Farmer

Synthetic cannabinoids, more popularly known as “fake weed”, K2, or Spice, was originally produced as a way to study the functions of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active psychoactive substance found in cannabis, and its interactions with cannabinoid receptors. During its first debut as an illicit drug in 2004, synthetic cannabinoids were first being sold at local gas stations as incense, and thus, sellers of this drug were able to circumvent law enforcement by packaging them with labels stating “Not for Human Consumption.” The creation of many synthetic cannabinoids are so simple that they can easily be created illicitly. Also, the simplicity of the synthetic pathway allows the starting materials to be easily changed to create a new synthetic cannabinoid. Due to increased legal action, production of synthetic cannabinoids has evolved with many new strains, some including brodifacoum, an anticoagulant poison commonly found in rat poisons, and has been added to intensify the high. With the addition of unregulated chemicals, using synthetic cannabinoids has resulted in detrimental health effects including hallucinations, strokes, seizures, vomiting, heart failure, and even death. We are now in the midst of a synthetic cannabinoid crisis, or rather, is this merely the beginning of a new drug epidemic?

The Effect of Popular Culture on the Abuse of Dextromethorphan (Purple Drank, CCC, Poor Man’s PCP)

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2020 by Dr. Steven Farmer

This video discusses how popular culture (Television and Music) has caused an increase in abuse of formulations containing the drug Dextromethorphan.   Also, it discusses the background and the organic synthesis of this drug.  Dextromethorphan is a common cough medicine and is also known by the slang terms: Purple Drank, CCC, and Poor Man’s PCP.

Fentanyl Death Related Rates

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2020 by Dr. Steven Farmer

This video discusses Fentanyl and why are so many people overdosing on it?

First Organic Molecule Found in Space

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2020 by Dr. Steven Farmer

Did you know that there are organic molecules found in space? This video discusses how they were first detected.

Super Bugs-There Are Here, Closer than You Think

Posted in Uncategorized on May 22, 2020 by Dr. Steven Farmer

This video discusses the how and why many bacteria, including Gonorrhea, have become resistant to antibiotics. Also, this video discusses the chemistry behind how antibiotics actually kill bacteria.

Diarrhea Drug Overdose

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2019 by Dr. Steven Farmer

Most people do not know that the active ingredient in common over-the-counter diarrhea remedies is actually an opioid.  This fact has led to many accidental overdoses and even death.  If you would like to learn more check out the following video:


Why Does Alcohol Cause Cirrhosis?

Posted in Consumer Products, Poisons on October 14, 2017 by Dr. Steven Farmer

Even if one does not die from alcohol intoxication in a single large dose, it can still kill from smaller doses over a long period of time. One of the most insidious aspects of alcohol abuse is the fact that it will allow a user to continue, sometimes for decades, while it slowly destroys their body. Unfortunately, by the time they stop, it is often too late to repair the bodily damage. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to a wide variety of diseases including cirrhosis, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.

Our bodies are actually designed to handle limited amounts of alcohol. Small amounts are produced by our bodies as part of our metabolism, and alcohol can be generated during the processing of certain bodily compounds. Human metabolism includes enzymes that can convert alcohol into harmless metabolites through three basic steps. First, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) acts as a catalyst for the conversion of alcohol to the toxic intermediate acetaldehyde. The second step uses the enzyme mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), to catalyze the conversion of acetaldehyde to acetic acid. Finally, the third step involves acetic acid being broken down into water and carbon dioxide through a series of reactions involving the citric acid cycle (CAC).

Problems occur when these mechanisms become overwhelmed due to excessive alcohol consumption, resulting in acetaldehyde beginning to accumulate in the liver. Acetaldehyde is known to be toxic, carcinogenic, and the source of much of the long-term damage caused by alcohol. Acetaldehyde easily reacts with certain nitrogen-containing groups call amines, which can be found in the amino acids that make up proteins, to form what are called adducts. The formation of an adduct changes the structure and therefore the functionality of these proteins. In the case of protein adducts, the structure changes to the point where our own bodies see them as foreign invaders and mount an immune response, causing liver inflammation. Proteins make up enzymes, which are critical to the survival of cells.  After adduct formation, these enzymes no longer function properly, and the cells die. Our bodies have processes that can repair or replace damaged proteins, but if enough build up they can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and death.

Alcohol accounts for 28% of all liver-disease-related deaths in the U.S., and is also responsible for a little over 3% of all cancer deaths that occur globally. Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) is the fifth most common type of cancer, with an estimated 500,000 new cases being diagnosed every year worldwide. Because this type of cancer is usually discovered late, the prognosis is poor, with a median survival time of 1-2 months.

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Contaminated Tea Threatens Lives

Posted in Poisons on September 7, 2017 by Dr. Steven Farmer

You may have read the about the incident back in February of 2017, where a customer purchased a deadly herbal tea blend from the Sun Wing Wo Trading Company in San Francisco.  Her resultant death was due to an ingredient called aconite that didn’t belong.  Also known as Wolf’s Bane, Monk’s Hood, or Chuan Wu in Traditional Chinese Herb shops, it has uses as a topical numbing agent, treatment for bruises or, if prepared properly, as an oral preparation for treating pain.

It cannot be ingested in its raw, unprepared form because it contains toxic alkaloids which directly affect the heart and Central Nervous System (CNS).  These include aconitine, mesaconitine, and hypaconitine (among other Aconitum alkaloids). A large dose causes near instantaneous death.

Aconite’s Mechanism

The human body is basically an electrical system.  All of its instructions, even down to the contraction or relaxation of microscopic capillaries, rely on electrical signals.  Aconite’s treacherous little alkaloids interfere with the transmission of almost all electrical signals, flipping the sodium channel wide open and locking it in that position.

When your heart beats, sodium flows to polarize the channel and send a “beat now” signal.  The channel depolarizes and the signal stops.  However, when Aconitine and Mesaconitine lock the signal open it takes much longer to depolarize, so the next signal is delayed, resulting in a slow heart beat (bradycardia).  That is but one example; there are so many other complications possible, listing them would be pointless.

In the same way it interferes with the transmission of all nerve signals, from the CNS to the tips of your toes.  This results in limb weakness, confusion, incontinence, and eventually, death.  To our bodies, aconite-poisoning is very much like throwing a handful of metal filings in a fuse box—a bad idea at any time.

Aconite has no business being in tea.  It is used very seldom by anyone, outside of traditional Chinese medicine.  The very best advice is to avoid Aconite altogether because we have dozens of other products that perform exactly the same job, in a safe manner, without any risk of death.

The Takeaway

If you are a dedicated herbalist aficionado, make sure you are doing business with reputable companies.  Herbalists helped us evolve and grow as a species in the early days.  They were not simply exploiting a new fad in hopes of profit.  They committed their lives—and those of their community—to a profound understanding of the capabilities (and dangers) of the foliage and greenery around them.

Chemistry Meme

Posted in Chemistry Meme on July 27, 2017 by Dr. Steven Farmer

Chemistry Meme Safety Glasses

Every Chemist Meme

What Organic Chemists do!

Posted in Chemistry Meme on July 27, 2017 by Dr. Steven Farmer