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An Expert’s Guide to Designer Drugs

Medico Legal

By Dr Bernard Leddy Ph.D. Leddy Consultancy Ltd www.leddyconsultancy.ie

General Considerations for the Practicing Lawyer. Designer Drugs are often defined as synthetic analogues of a legally restricted or prohibited drug, devised and manufactured to circumvent existing drug laws. I am seeing an increasing number of cases in my Forensic Toxicology practice where the clients of Lawyers who instruct me are getting into trouble through the use, abuse and misuse of these substances whether legal or not. Persons involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of these drugs are always trying to keep one step ahead of the legislation. In some jurisdictions the actual molecular form of the molecule including its isomers must be described in law.

In other jurisdictions more generic prohibitions apply where the authorities can ban a class of substance without first identifying all and any specific molecules. Also, in most jurisdictions it is illegal to drive or attempt to drive while under the influence of an intoxicant. In many cases the intoxicant does not have to be defined beforehand.
However, with the sophisticated sensitivity of most modern Forensic Toxicology laboratories many intoxicants which are not themselves illegal may be found in blood and urine samples.

Technical Considerations.

With improved technology in the very near future delivering accurate,hand held, roadside testing devices for testing drivers for drugs as well as alcohol I feel that Lawyers will find an increasing caseload of relatively complex cases which they haven’t had to deal with heretofore. In most jurisdictions presently a blood or urine sample is sent for toxicological screening after an accident or road traffic event which has come to the attention of the Police. In future when devices developed recently are used,routine roadside testing for drugs will be as common as roadside alcohol testing is now.The results of this for Lawyers is that you will have to deal with much more complicated toxicology and pharmacology in dealing with your driving under the influence cases. In many of the cases which I deal with involving so called ‘’Designer drugs’’ it feels as if I have to hit a moving target as the inventiveness of the synthetic chemists who manufacture these substances is quite impressive. Quite small changes in molecular structure allow many of these drugs to retain their potency but lose their prohibited legal status. They may turn up in forensic blood and urine samples and make the toxicology quite challenging.The frightening thing for me is that most,if not all,of them have never been the subject of objective clinical trials so the adverse side effects may be completely unknown to the users.

How to Deal with Your Client.

The legal issues surrounding and involving these drugs are manifold. The first thing to address with your client is to establish what breaches of the Law are alleged in each case. It may be simple possesion or possesion with intent to supply, manufacture or even driving under the influence.

It is important for you the Lawyer to get the exact name of the intoxicant complained of as it may affect the legal classification of any alleged offence.It is also important to obtain a full toxicology report if forensic samples have been taken. In my experience some toxicology reports on blood or urine can throw up the presence of intoxicants which your client did not, knowingly, consume.These are often adulterants of street drugs some of which can have quite profound effects on behaviour or driving skills. The concentrations of these adulterants made be quite small as the analytical methods used in toxicology testing are very sensitive. So you will need to get the full screening picture. Many of these drugs are controlled substances under misuse of drugs legislation, however, quite a few are not. How you handle your client depends on the nature and quantity of intoxicant found. In cases where the drugs themselves are analysed I find that street drugs are often complex mixtures of substances some of them probably unknown. They are seldom if ever pharmaceutically pure and may be adulterated with quite dangerous additives. Again as the Lawyer you need to get the full analytical picture from a toxicologist as the penalties for possession,manufacture,sale and distribution will depend on the chemical nature of the drug.

How Can I Help You.
I offer a full toxicology and drug information service for Lawyers.

It will be fully available online later in the year but in the meantime you can contact me through my new website www.leddyconsultancy.ie Dr.Bernard Leddy 2014.