A research chemical (abbreviated RC) is any psychoactive drug that is marketed as a chemical produced for scientific research. Research chemicals fall into many categories. These include psychedelics, stimulants, dissociatives, synthetic cannabinoids, entactogens and CNS depressants such as benzodiazepine derivatives, alcohol and GHB derivatives. Many of the currently available RC's sold in today's market were originally synthesized by Alexander Shulgin, who's most notable works include; TiHKAL, and PiHKAL (Tryptamines/Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved). More recently, research chemicals originally synthesized by David E. Nichols have found their way on to the market (MDAI, MDAT, 2-AI, 5-IAI, Bromo-DragonFLY,4-MTA, etc), along with the JWH series synthetic cannabinoids synthesized by John William Huffman, popularized by the legal high "Spice". Those which fall outside these are often designed by chemists working for pharmaceutical companies and anonymous chemists working alongside legal high distributors.
DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING IN HERE FOR GRANTED. Many of these chemicals have not been studied in a proper scientific setting, such as more commonly used drugs like LSD, Psilocybin, THC, etc. Most of the documented effects come from anecdotal evidence and trip reports. Effects can vary from person to person. Make sure to READ about these drugs before you decide to try any of them. Know about dosages, overdoses, possible risks etc. Be sure to use a proper scale when dealing with these chemicals, or if unavailable preform a liquid measurement as many RC's have a dosage range in that of milligrams. A few mg's here and there can make the difference between a pleasurable experience and overdose, which in a worst case scenario, for example BromoDragonFly can lead to loss of limbs, or death.
This is one of the main groups of RC's currently available. The phenethylamine group contains the more widely recognized drugs such as mescaline, MDMA, amphetamines and many more. Phenethylamine based compounds can have a broad range of effects ranging from stimulative, psychedelic, anti-depressive, to empathic.
Some of the more established 2C-X's you are likely to find from this family are (2C-E, 2C-I, 2C-P, 2C-B etc.). These particular compounds have been in circulation for around about a decade and have been fairly experimented with by users. Although there have been a few deaths resulting from chemicals from the 2C group, such as 2C-T-7, on the whole incidents of death are quite rare. Here is a list to give you an idea of what you might find:
- 2C-B (hard to find, but popular)
- 2C-B-FLY (around)
- 2C-E (common)
- 2C-C (around)
- 2C-D (around)
- 2C-I (common)
- 2C-P (around)
- 2C-T-2 (around)
- 2C-T-7 (rare, but around)
- 2C-T-21 (rare, but around)
- NBOMe-Mescaline (derivative of Mescaline)
The ones with nothing beside them are very hard to find/not really found at all. 2C-B is illegal in the US (Schedule 1), and because of the analogue act, most of the 2c chems could get you prosecuted if it's proved that you're using them for human consumption.
This group contains stimulants such as amphetamine and methamphetamine, as well as MDMA. Most are no longer sold as RCs, as they are now illegal, but there are still a number of psychedelic amphetamines such as DOx (DOI, DOB, DOC etc.) available. There are also many variations of the MDMA chemical in this group, such as MMDA, 5-Methyl-MDA, 6-APB, MDEA, etc, although many of these are not currently sold as research chemicals. Again, as MDMA and amphetamines are illegal, many of these analogues could get you prosecuted under the analogue act if proven that you're using them for human consumption.
Here is a more detailed list of amphetamines sold as research chemicals.
 Substituted Cathinones
Substituted cathinones are derivatives of cathinone, a natrually occurring substance found in the Khat plant which is chewed for its psychoactive effects. Cathinone is closely related to amphetamine in structure and produces many of the same effects, although with less intensity and a shorter acting duration. One of the most common substituted cathinones used is Mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) which originally gained popularity in Israel before being mass marketed in the UK shortly after. There have been a number of adverse reactions resulting in pronounced vasoconstriction after a single use of mephedrone, as well as reports of addiction. It's also been implicated in a few deaths. Another popular cathinone, Methylone (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylcathinone) is a structural analogue of MDMA. The legality of these and other substituted cathinones varies depending on the country.
Here is a more detailed list of the substituted cathinones.
Here is another large group of RCs containing tryptamines with varying degrees of popularity. Most of the tryptamines available are psychedelic in nature, but may also possess entactogenic actions as well. For example, AMT, AET and 5-MeO-DALT have been reported to produce MDMA-like effects in term of emotional openness. Since there are so many of the tryptamine compounds, one should read TIHKAL to find which one is best suited to the effects you seek. Some are very similar to psilocybin, (4-OH-DMT) perhaps the closest of these being 4-AcO-DMT, while others are similar to DMT, such as DPT. The 5-MeO-xxx tryptamines (e.g. 5-MeO-AMT) are reported to be more harmful on the body than their non 5-MeO counterparts. In the case of 5-MeO-AMT there is reported to have been at least one death from its use. Again, not many of these drugs have been tested in a scientific study designed specifically to scrutinize the RC chemicals, so BE CAREFUL.
- 5-MeO-DMT (Schedule I in Nebraska, Oklahoma, S. Dakota, Federal law still pending DEA review)
 Synthetic Cannabinoids
Synthetic cannabinoids can take form in a variety of distinct chemical classes. The most commonly sold are that of the JWH series, and to a lesser extent the CP, HU, AM, and WIN series. Effects can vary dramatically depending on the cannabinoid receptor selectivity (Ki ratios) and dosage of the compounds. These range from moderate like cannabis effects to that of full blown psychedelic and dissociative states. The most widely used of the family is JWH-018 which was developed by John W. Huffman to investigate drugs that target endocannabinoid receptors in the body. Ironically, this study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2008 JWH-018 was discovered in the legal high "Spice" along with other cannabinoids. Many of the synthetic cannabinoids are very recent creations and as such have little to no documented evidence about the short/long term dangers. In the case of the naphthoylindole JWH's such as JWH-018 there has been concern over the possibility of carcinogenic epoxides being formed during metabolism, though this is purely speculation at this point in time.
Here is a more detailed list of the synthetic cannabinoids.
- Cannabicyclohexanol (C8)-CP 47,497
- CP 47,497
- CP 55,940
- CP 55,244
- Levonantradol CP 50,556-1
- WIN 55,212-2
- WIN 55,225
- WIN 48,098
The most widely used arylcyclohexylamines are Ketamine and PCP. Both compounds posses a characteristic dissociative high and are used recreationally for this purpose. More recently, a few structural analogues of both Ketamine and PCP have become available as research chemicals. To date there have been a few adverse reactions to Methoxetamine along with one death implicated in combination with MDAI.
Here is a short list.
- Methoxydine (4-MeO-PCP)
- Methoxetamine (MXE)
 Interview With A Arylcyclohexylamine Chemist
In February 2011 the inventor of these new arylcyclohexylamine compounds was interviewed by Hamilton Morris for Vice magazine. The full interview can be found here.
In recent years GBL gained popularity as a research chemical in the UK. It was sold a legal substitute for GHB and a favorite amongst clubbers due to its pro-social effects and cheapness in comparison to alcohol (as little as 20 pence a hit). However in April 2009, a medical student, Hester Stewart, aged 21 was found dead at a house party after a suspected GBL overdose. Her young age and middle class background combined with the fact that she was moderately attractive meant that it made headline news. This lead to pressure on the government to ban the substance and on the 23rd of December 2009 it was made a class C drug. Since then there have been an increasing number of GBL like substances to fill the void. These include:
 Benzodiazepine Derivatives
- Etizolam (Though sold as a prescription drug in various countries)
- Dimethocaine (DMC)
 Legal Risks
There have been some legal actions against some people for selling/purchasing RC's. Chances are that if you order 250mg of an RC, you're not on the top of the list of people that Law Enforcement Officials (LEO) are looking to bust. They're mainly out to bust the vendor, but if the vendor does a bad job of keeping your information private, then LEO could very well have your information. It should be noted that as increasing amounts of RC's have become available on the street there have also been a larger number of arrests for possession. This should serve as a warning to anyone who wants to take RC's at a club or other public setting where police officers may be close by.
Always be sure to check the legality of individual RC's in your state/country as they vary dramatically across the globe.
This has so far been the only major bust directed towards the RC scene (there was at least one that was done directed towards the steroid scene). On July 21, 2004, US officials busted 5 RC vendors based in the USA. In total, 10 people were arrested in conjunction with the bust in the US. The DEA also sent credit card information obtained during these busts to LEO in the UK, who in December of 2004 arrested and charged over 20 UK residents for purchasing RC's.