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People overdosing on ‘research drugs,’ police say

Insp. Howie Page of holds up a bag containing a research drug at a news conference in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2014. YOUTUBE/Toronto Police Service

Several people have overdosed on so-called research drugs, which are starting to be used recreationally, prompting Toronto police to issue a public warning.

Police said the drugs—ethylphenidate and methylbenzylpiperazine, which companies are willing to sell online—are purported to produce highs similar to cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA) and are priced comparably.

“This is a fairly new area that we’re seeing,” Insp. Howie Page said at a news conference on Friday.

“I can tell you that…individuals now going to research drugs and putting this into their system—It’s new. It’s new to law enforcement.”

He said people get a “false sense of safety” after reading anecdotal advice from uncredited sources and there’s no way of knowing the concentration and purity of the drugs.

The stimulants can cause harm or death, and police said they’ve had many cases of users being hospitalized, including two men in Etobicoke.

The men, both in their 20s, were in serious condition, but will survive.

Police are looking at whether to lay criminal charges.

Page said officers are working with Health Canada to see if the chemicals are regulated and whether they should be included in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

“I think the internet certainly changes the game a bit,” Page said.

“The bottom line is we don’t want a death.”