Archive for the Uncategorized Category

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:


Your Car’s Battery Can Be Deadly

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2017 by Dr. Steven Farmer

This is not something that happens often, but it happened. A Car battery which was broken or damaged caused the death of mother and 3-year-old daughter. They were found with no signs of life in their car. The cause of death was determined to be poisoning with very toxic gas: hydrogen sulfide from a car batter battery, which has been placed under the driver’s seat. In this case, the smell was so intense that first responders were forced to initially retreat. Car batteries are usually sealed and should not emit any gas. However, this case showed that there is always the exception.

A car battery consists basically of two lead plates which are immersed into sulfuric acid. During regular charging and discharging cycles of batteries containing sulfuric acid, there shouldn’t be any hydrogen sulfide production. So how can hydrogen sulfide occur? It can be produced by the broken battery or by heat production when overcharging it. In such conditions, hydrogen can be released from the sulphuric acid solution which can form the poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas with the characteristic smell of rotten eggs. It is very poisonous, corrosive, and flammable. It’s heavier than air, so it’s accumulating at the bottom of poorly vented spaces. Once you can smell it, it means that its concentrations are high enough to be toxic. It affects many systems in the human body and the one which is the most affected is the nervous system.

When air has been contaminated with hydrogen sulfide even a few breaths can cause a loss of the sense of smell and the lack of awareness of surroundings. In the case of even short exposure to high concentration of hydrogen sulfide, death can occur in few moments. The main cause of death is because of inhibitory properties of hydrogen sulfide, which stops cells’ ability to absorb oxygen. In short, the victims die from suffocation. The best course of action if you think you are smelling hydrogen sulfide gas is to vent the space,  and leave until it’s properly vented.


Are you ready for powdered alcohol?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21, 2015 by Dr. Steven Farmer


You should be because early in march the controversial powdered alcohol product call Palcohol received approval from The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). As part of the U.S. Treasury Department, the TTB has the authority to review the formulation and labeling of distilled spirits products. The Palcohol product would come in 100 ml pouches, with five ounces (150 ml) of water being added to the powder inside to create the equivalent of an alcoholic drink. The Arizona-based company which produces Palcohol, Lipsmark LLC, has been given approval for four flavors of powdered alcohol: cosmopolitan, margarita, vodka, and rum.
Because Palcohol is an entirely new form of alcohol, there has been intense concern from legislatures about the possible misuse by people. Concerns include accidental overdose due to unfamiliarity with its potency, the possibly of its flavors being appealing to small children, it could be easy to sneak powdered alcohol into public events, people may try to snort the powder, and powdered alcohol could be used to surreptitiously spike a drink. The TTB was quick to point out that although Palcohol has received federal approval, states can also regulate alcohol sales within their borders. This is exactly what multiple states – including South Carolina, Louisiana and Vermont — have done by preemptively banning powdered alcohol products. Other states – such as Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Massachusetts — have proposed obstructive legislation against powdered alcohol products.
So how does powdered alcohol work? Although the actual formulation of Palcohol is a secret, the process of making powdered alcohols is quite well-known. In fact, a U.S. patent for powdered alcohol products was submitted by the General Foods Corporation in 1972. To put it simply, the liquid alcohol is absorbed by a solid substance which retains it solid form. A good example of this is how a sponge can absorb water and still remain a solid. Now imagine a powder made up of a multitude of tiny sponges and you are getting close to what is going on. In the case of Palcohol, the absorbent substance is most likely made of a class of molecules called dextrins. Dextrins are made by breaking up starch, which is produced by many common foods such as potatoes, corn, and rice. Dextrins are commonly used as the absorbing agent in powdered alcohols because they do not increase the sweetness of the drink, are easily dissolved in cold water, and do not impart any flavor. Also, dextrins are known to produce powders even with an alcohol content of 60%.
If you are ready for powdered alcohol it should be commercially available this summer!

Who I am!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2012 by Dr. Steven Farmer

I am a university professor who holds a doctorate in organic chemistry.   In addition to working in the industry for a short while I have taught general and organic chemistry courses at three different campuses.  After teaching chemistry for a while I, noticed that the more interesting and edgy aspects of chemistry were never discussed in textbooks and in lectures.  As a student I remembered that any stories told by instructors, which ties the material in with real life, tended to have a dramatic impact on me.  To that end, I have created this blog to highlight the many strange ways chemistry shows up in our lives.