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September 24, 2017

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New drug identified in Taiwan, concealed in instant coffee package

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A new type of drug was found concealed as instant coffee powder, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Wednesday, noting that domestic drug dealers are catching up with international trends in smuggling.

FDA official Wang De-yuan (王德原) said Wednesday morning that 6-methoxy Methylone, along with a number of banned narcotics, was found in bags of instant coffee powder confiscated by the Taipei Police Office in August.

6-methoxy Methylone, an analog of Methylone, has features similar to schedule 2 drug MDMA — more commonly known as ecstasy — and schedule 3 drug mephedrone.

6-methoxy Methylone is not yet listed under the FDA's Controlled Drugs Management Information System, but the FDA is seeking to classify the compound as a schedule 2 drug as soon as possible, Wang said.

Little is known about the physiological and toxicological properties of the compound.

However, the FDA said they believe its side effects are similar to those of MDMA, including breathing suppression, high blood pressure and hallucinations.

The FDA has been working closely with police officers to examine toxicological compounds using its gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) machines, Wang said.

In the latest bust of instant beverage powder shipments, inspectors found ketamine, mephedrone, and 6-methoxy Methylone concealed in regular coffee bags.

Ketamine and mephedrone are both classified as schedule 3 controlled substances in Taiwan, Wang said.

In April this year, a proposal to upgrade ketamine to a schedule 2 drug was rejected by a drug review committee under the Ministry of Justice.

New Drug Trends

Over the past six years, 87 percent of drug samples collected by police officers contained ketamine, with cathinone identified in the second-highest quantity.

Over the same period, the FDA identified 36 types of drugs that they deemed to be new to Taiwan.

Fifteen of these were classified as analogs of cathinone.

From 2011 to 2015, cases of cathinone abuse increased almost 71 fold, from 440 cases to 31,390 cases, according to the Health and Welfare Ministry.

In 2014, eight people were reported dead due to cathinone overdose.

Wang said new methods of selling and delivering drugs in the nation have emerged in recent years.

Drug dealers are catching up with international new trends to avoid police officers, he said.

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