More ketamine samples, cathinones and 2C-B

1 Ketamine

In 2023, the DIZ Zurich analyzed a total of 162 ketamine samples (5.1% of all samples, n=3180). The ketamine samples tested at the DIZ and at the mobile drug checking stations generally have a high active substance content with an average purity of 94.2% (with a range of 20.2% to 100.0%). A purity of less than 80% was measured in only five samples, but the laboratory detected some false declarations. One sample contained only MDMA, three samples declared as ketamine contained methamphetamine, one sample contained cocaine, one sample contained lisdexamfetamine, two samples contained amphetamine, one sample declared as ketamine contained the endogenous hormone 2-phenylethylamine and four samples contained no psychoactive ingredients at all. The analysis of ketamine does not include a chirality determination (R- or S-ketamine), as the analytical effort per sample is too great. However, illegally obtained ketamine can be assumed to be racemate (balanced ratio of R- and S-ketamine).

2 2C-B

The DIZ Zurich analyzed a total of 129 samples declared as 2C-B in 2023 (4.1% of all samples, n=3180). Of these, 70 powder samples and 59 samples in pill form were submitted. Compared to the previous year, this is almost double the number of 2C-B samples. However, conclusions about a trend must be put into perspective, as a large number of samples were handed in as 2C-B within a short period of time, which turned out to be "Tusi" or "Tucibi" or "Pink Cocaine" and were mislabeled due to the similar names. A blog post on this topic can be found here. For this reason, it is hardly possible to evaluate the powder samples in 2023, as the majority of 2C-B powder samples consist of a colored mixture of various substances.

Regardless of this, a trend can be observed due to the increasing number of 2C-B samples in 2023. In the pills declared as 2C-B, the laboratory detected an average of 12.6 mg 2C-B, with the active substance content fluctuating extremely widely between 4.0 mg and 33.7 mg 2C-B. An active ingredient content of 33.7 mg 2C-B means more than double the usual dose and can quickly have an overwhelming effect when consumed. In addition, too low an active ingredient content of 2C-B is also associated with a risk, as users may overdose if the effect fails to materialize. Three pills were found to contain the active ingredient MDMA instead of 2C-B, one pill contained the new psychoactive substance a-PHiP and two samples contained a very small amount of the painkiller acetaminophen. Three of the pills contained synthetic impurities and 2C-H, which indicates impure synthesis or impure purification.

3 Cathinones

Another trend in 2023 is the increased number of cathinone samples. Cathinones are a separate group of substances within the new psychoactive substances (NPS) and are classified as amphetamines. They mainly have a stimulating and entactogenic effect (similar to MDMA). The most common representatives of this substance group tested by DIZ Zurich in 2023 were 3-MMC (44 samples, n=3180) and 4-MMC (also known as mephedrone, 36 samples). It was striking that only 12 3-MMC samples and 13 4-MMC samples were found to contain no unexpected ingredients or a false declaration. This means that about 75% of these samples contained synthesis by-products or (additional) ingredients other than the expected active ingredient. Among these, the laboratory mainly detected misdeclarations such as 3-CMC, 4-CMC, 2-MMC or dimethylpentylone. These new psychoactive substances also belong to the cathinones and, according to user reports, have a comparable spectrum of effects, but are new to the market and largely unexplored. Some of these substances are also still available legally and cheaply in other European countries. It is suspected that the current demand for 3-MMC and 4-MMC is being used to profitably sell cheap and sometimes legally available new psychoactive substances to buyers. The substances 3-CMC and 4-CMC are suspected of being highly neurotoxic.

4 Medication

In 2023, the DIZ Zurich analyzed a total of 43 illegally acquired drugs. The benzodiazepine alprazolam (Xanax®) was analyzed by far the most frequently, with a total of 13 samples. Other drugs were only handed in sporadically. In addition to alprazolam, DIZ Zurich tested three samples of bromazolam (a new, unexplored benzodiazepine), three samples of diaphin (pharmaceutically manufactured heroin) and three samples of etizolam (also a new, unexplored benzodiazepine).

As in previous evaluation years, the analysis results in 2023 also show that illegally acquired drugs largely contain different ingredients than those declared at the time of purchase. In six of the 13 alprazolam samples submitted, only the content declared by the consumer was analyzed. In three samples, the structurally similar new psychoactive substance flualprazolam was detected, while in other samples the laboratory analyzed flumbromazolam, bromazolam, caffeine or no psychoactive ingredients at all. It is also unusual that the purchase price of the alprazolam tablets dispensed ranged from CHF 1 to CHF 20 each and thus varied greatly. In comparison, the quality of the alprazolam samples tested at the DIZ is not dependent on the purchase price. Three of the 13 samples were purchased via online channels and eight of the alprazolam samples were declared by the consumers as private purchases.

The three analyzed, non-prescribed and illegally acquired Diaphin tablets actually contained the expected active ingredient heroin in two cases. One of the samples was a pressed tablet containing pure cocaine, which can be described as unusual.

The three etizolam samples, which were also purchased privately, only contained the actual active substance in one case. In the other two samples, the DIZ analyzed a mixture of bromazolam and amphetamine.

5 Heroin

Drug-checking visitors to the DIZ submitted a total of 17 heroin samples for analysis in 2023 (0.5 % of all samples, n=3180). This is a very low figure compared to the total number of samples and means that it is difficult to derive trends in the heroin market from the drug checking results. The active substance content in the heroin samples submitted in 2023 is 50.8 % heroin and ranges from 20.3 % to 66.1 %. In the samples tested in 2023, only ingredients typical of heroin were detected, such as acetaminophen, 6-acetylcodeine, caffeine, 6-monoacetylmorphine and synthetic impurities. One sample purchased online and sold as heroin contained only heroin, with no other active ingredients.

The results published here are not representative of the substance market in the city of Zurich.


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