Saturday 16 December 2017

Trinity journal featuring ‘Breaking Bad’ essay on mephedrone recalled

Scholars’ article detailed common household goods used to make the drug

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin

Editors of a journal at one of Ireland's top universities were ordered to withdraw their publication which contained an article on making mephedrone.

The guide - entitled “‘Inspiration from Breaking Bad’: The Synthesis of Mephedrone from Legally-Acquired Domestic Substances” – was published in an essay in the Trinity Student Medical Journal (TSMJ).

It detailed how the chemicals needed to make mephedrone came “from a variety of locations including hardware stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and online agricultural and swimming pool chemical manufacturers.

Mephedrone is a stimulant drug belonging to the chemical family of the ‘cathinones’ group of drugs.

The essay was written by two scholars from the School of Medicine under the supervision of a toxicologist in the Discipline of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at St. James’s Hospital.

The authors of the essay wrote in their introduction: “In effect we proved that if someone is so inclined, they could circumvent laws banning not only this illicit substance, but also the heavily monitored chemicals used to create it, simply by using common, legal products.”

"We researched the ingredients online looking for common household goods that contained the desired chemicals in high enough concentrations.”

The research had been intended to prove helpful to gardai investigating illegal drug labs, the authors said.

“For police officers who encounter clan labs, the results of our research may allow them to quickly realise what substance they are dealing with from seemingly innocuous supplies that may be lying around.”

A spokesperson for TCD said today: “In its latest edition [the TSMJ] featured an article which was concerned with the public health risk posed by the drug mephedrone.”

“The TSMJ editorial board has made clear that the article was ‘intended to highlight the important public health issue of illegal drug manufacture by dangerous methods that may generate potentially lethal and uncharacterised products.”

“In this case the article suggested that the final product could be mephedrone; an illegal substance.’

However, the spokesperson said that concerned by its contents, the School of Medicine on sight of the published article requested that the TSMJ editorial Committee withdraw the journal from circulation due to “a combination of significant scientific inaccuracies”.

“The main issues were (1) the conclusion that the final product was mephedrone was incorrect and that (2) the experimental methods were inaccurately reported,” the TCD spokesperson said. 

“It was in this context that the School requested the withdrawal of the journal.  The TSMJ Committee responded promptly to the Schools request.”

The Trinity Student Medical Journal is a student-led journal, edited and managed by Trinity medical students that promotes student research and scholarship. 

No academic member of staff is involved in the editorial decisions of the TSMJ.

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