Authorities in Argentina have identified the presence of what they are calling a "new" hallucinogenic drug, highlighting both the appeal of the country's growing synthetic drug market and the ways traffickers adapt their products to skirt controls on specific substances.
In June, Argentine authorities dismantled a group of Colombians registered as students in local universities who imported packages of a drug called "pandora" from Spain, reported Clarin. The case was linked to a man involved in selling cocaine and designer drugs in Buenos Aires night clubs, the newspaper said.
Officials seized 25,000 doses of pandora -- which has the technical name 25I-NBOMe -- from the group, along with thousands of doses of LSD and ecstasy tablets, reported Infobae. The substance reportedly has hallucinogenic effects similar to those of LSD and is sold on papers that are dissolved orally, but its chemical composition is different.
According to Clarin, because pandora is so new in Argentina, the country's prohibited substances list has not yet been updated to include it.
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Pandora may be new for Argentina, but it was reportedly developed in 2003, and its use as a party drug has been previously identified in other countries, including the United States. The drug, which is also called "C-Boom" and "bomba," has become particularly popular in Chile, where it made up 95 percent of synthetic drug samples examined in 2013. There, too, authorities have seized shipments of pandora originating from Spain.
According to the Argentine Anti-Drug Association, pandora is 10 times stronger than LSD and can have deadly effects when mixed with alcohol. There have been pandora-related deaths reported in Chile, the United States, and Europe.
Pandora is just one of a number of new synthetic drugs that have begun appearing on Latin American markets -- among them the horse tranquilizer ketamine -- as traffickers attempt to work around legal controls.
The fact that it has now made its way to Argentina indicates traffickers are eager to tap into a small but growing synthetic drug market in that country fuelled by mostly middle class consumers. The evolution of this market has also led to the emergence of domestic ecstasy laboratories.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
Argentina may also be appealing to traffickers of new psychoactive substances because of its lax regulations on imports of chemical substances like ephedrine, which is used in methamphetamine production. In a recent case, corrupt officials were accused of facilitating ephedrine trafficking, in a scandal in which even the president's office has been implicated.