The 'ultrapotent', 'zombie' drug AMB-FUBINACA has come to town
It's "ultrapotent" and 85 times stronger than cannabis.
In 2015, it caused scores of people to behave like "zombies".
And now, it's killing New Zealanders - as synthetic drugs inflict a deadly grip across the country thanks to an extremely dangerous chemical. AMB-FUBINACA might sound silly, or even otherworldly, but it's the chemical inside a drug responsible for killing around 20 Kiwis nationwide this year.
Ten deaths over the course of July were linked to the hazardous drug in Auckland alone, triggering a number of seizures of the drug by police as well as a public warning over its dangers.
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AMB-FUBINACA's full name is this: methyl 2-(1-(4-fluorobenzyl)-1H-indazole-3-carboxamido)- 3-methylbutanoate. It's also known as MMB-FUBINACA or FUB-AMB.
It has a structure that reflects that of a cannabinoid receptor agonist. Basically, they slow down the central nervous system - leading to the "zombie-like" state.
Other effects of similar synthetic drugs cause severe clinical features, including psychosis, delirium, seizures, acute kidney injury, hyperthermia, and death.
According to researchers, it was first identified in synthetic cannabinoid products in Japan in 2012. It was originally developed by pharmaceutical company Pfizer, according to the New York Times.
After the so-called "zombie" effect, which resulted in a "mass casualty event", researchers took serum, urine and blood samples from eight of those affected and ran tests which identified they'd consumed AMB-FUBINACA.
They also tested a product called AK-47 24 Karat Gold, which had been linked to the event, and found AMB-FUBINACA.
Because they have been grouped under the name synthetic cannabis, they are dangerous.
Roy Gerona, a clinical chemist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the New York Times: "There is this false idea out there that these drugs are safe, because no-one overdoses on marijuana."
New Zealand Police have re-termed synthetic cannabis to synthetic drugs for that reason.
The chemicals known as synthetic cannabinoids have evolved over the past decade. As authorities react and ban certain types, manufacturers change what's used.
Researchers wrote of AMB-FUBINACA: "[It] is an example of the emerging class of "ultrapotent" synthetic cannabinoids and poses a public health concern."