Writer Eve Harding has submitted the following piece for our Blog. Formerly from Maryland, she now resides in the UK where she is keenly aware of the drug issues>
Benzo Fury’s Stimulant and Addictive Properties Make it as Dangerous as Amphetamines
At least one legal high – a substance that gives a euphoric feeling similar to that of illegal drugs, but is not governed by laws relating to misuse of drugs – enters the market each week. This was reported by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board in March of this year. Although legal highs are often viewed by those who use them as a safer alternative to the likes of cocaine and amphetamines, this is not necessarily the case. Certainly at the beginning of April, concerns were raised about the party drug Benzo Fury – known scientifically as 5-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran or 5-APB for short.
Benzo Fury has quickly become one of the most used legal highs in Britain, but is also becoming popular in the United States. A synthetic chemical, it has been designed in a laboratory to induce euphoria and to be hallucinogenic; it is readily available for sale online, though also widely sold in night clubs and festivals, and at typically $15 per pill, is very accessible. Worries regarding this latest craze are based on the findings by a team of researchers at the University of Roehampton in Britain, which they shared at the British Neuroscience Association conference on 9th April.
The research investigated the effects of 5-APB on the brains of rats in comparison to the stimulants cocaine and amphetamines, hoping to give an indication of not just its properties, but its relative danger. Pathways of addiction are not dissimilar in rodents and humans, making rats a good choice for this study. It was found that Benzo Fury acts as amphetamines in that it has the potential to be a stimulant, hallucinogenic and addictive. Jolanta Opacka-Juffry, who led the research, said it was this combination of features that made it so dangerous. Unlike substances that have purely hallucinogenic properties, which it is not possible to become hooked on, as they don’t raise dopamine production like amphetamines and cocaine, Benzo Fury also promotes this, having the potential to be addictive and induce dependency.
Mechanisms of action
Their work highlighted that 5-APB works through serotonin receptors in the brain, those responsible for providing intense feelings of pleasure experienced during a high. However, it also indicated that the dopamine system is involved. The dopamine transporter protein, which facilitates the return of dopamine to nerve cells in the brain, ceasing dopamine’s action, appears to be altered, leading to reverse dopamine transport; without reuptake this has the potential to cause damage to nerve cells and result in cravings and reliance upon Benzo Fury to function normally. Taken numerous times for its psychedelic effects increases the chance of this dependency occurring. As any addict knows, once this stage has been reached, not only does it significantly impact on your life, but kicking a drug habit habit becomes increasingly more difficult. By this point, wanting to quit and having the support of friends and family is usually not enough, requiring the help of specialist drug treatment centers from Maryland to California. Getting the message out about the addictive nature of Benzo Fury is therefore vital.
Acting on serotonin receptors not only leads to changes in mood, but also means Benzo Fury may cause narrowing of blood vessels, raising blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke, further adding to the potential adverse results from taking it. There is also evidence that the drug reduces appetite and triggers paranoia, having consequences for long-term feelings of well-being. It should additionally not be forgotten that there has been at least one reported death following its use; a 19 year old male died after taking the drug at a music festival in the summer of 2012.
In comparison to illegal drugs, it is clear that Benzo Fury is not the safe pill that many consider it to be, displaying similar properties to those considered to be lethal. If more people knew the dangers, this and other legal highs would perhaps not be so popular. With many party goers not aware of what they are taking and what might be considered a safe dosage - indeed if there is one – along with their addictive nature, at present it’s purely a matter of luck if they take these and don’t have adverse effects. Although the relative chance of serious problems occurring is currently unclear from research to date, further studies are required to determine its potential for addiction, nerve cell damage and impact on the cardiovascular system. Looking beyond animal studies to gather information from people who have used the drug previously will also shed further light on the impact of Benzo Fury. However, with so many other legal highs out there and more being created the whole time, this is a growing area of research.