As in a previous blog of mine described, it is rather simple to set up virtual compound design from the comfort of your home. Tools and data are easily accessible and hardware is cheap. Add to that a bit more hardware, maybe even a (garage) laboratory – it makes you wonder “What If”?
Is it possible that open access data is abused for criminal purposes, in particular recreational drugs? I recon it it would make sense (unfortunately) and I am sure there are more articles to be found other than the one I stumbled upon recently, dating back to 2013, by the Guardian. Though they don’t give any source or example for their (probably legitimate, imho) claim of what/were “clandestine” labs are.
Synthesis of known (recreational) drugs have been accessible since the days of Usenet newsgroups (seen them myself back in the days) and probably even BBSs. And then there is of course PhiKal, perhaps one of the main sources for Usenet/BBS in those days, before internet became bigger and easier accessible. With that know-how also follows a list of how to replace certain ingredients with household items/chemicals as replacement of otherwise only laboratory accessible items. It is so simple nowadays, a simple Google search will yield e.g. the recipe for crystal meth based on household chemicals; “Breaking Bad” in real life.
Combine the urge do to something like this with knowledge on pharmaceutical design and open access…..
Though as long as as so called designer drugs seem to be based on arbitrary testing of only slightly modified existing compounds – one of many examples fitting that picture seems to be acrylfentanyl – it doesn’t look like open access is the culprit (yet). It’s more the usual greed and stupidity with as fast, simple and cheap turn-over as possible – health and safety concerns have never been on the agenda. The only optimization probably is accessibility of starting materials. If there is anything valid to the above mentioned article, then of course the synthesis can go beyond your local garage and is done by “professionals” with expert equipment and chemicals. But hey, maybe I am naive and there are pro-labs doing all the typical design and test cycles as a pharmaceutical company would do…. Not that that is a good justification for illegal drugs.
It’s a rather scary thought – I am not sure what, if anything at all, can be done about this.
Perhaps the law-makers should start banning substances based on their pharmaceutical action, or generic structure (Markush like?), rather than one-by-one. I believe a similar problem exists in the area of sports & doping, were new “undetectable compounds” turn up faster than anyone has time to analyze and make new laws prohibiting previously identified ones.
I (obviously) can only recommend against any type of creating existing or new drugs – not only from a substance abuse of legal issue, but also from a plain health perspective – putting untested “shit” into your body will lead to – shitty results, plain and simple. And if you are not a chemist doing “shit” in your garage, well, count on “shit” happening.