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A Look At Legal Highs

By John Clarke

Legal Highs

Recently, there have been a few nasty devel­op­ments in the world of legal highs. I was con­tac­ted by this week by GMTV and Radio 5 Live, asking for an inter­view about the “new” legal high Ivory Wave causing a stir. Unfor­tu­nately, I couldn’t give any inter­views for various boring reasons and could only give a bit of advice over the phone/​email, so I thought I’d write a post about it now I’ve got the time. Also, The UK’s old friend JWH-018 seems to be causing some trouble over the pond, having been linked a couple of deaths in Indiana. Finally, our gov­ern­ment have made some more noise about the “problem” of legal highs which makes no dif­fer­ence for a good year or so and will only make matters worse when they manage to cobble some new legis­la­tion together even­tu­ally.

Ivory Wave

Ivory WaveIvory Wave has been around for at least a year, and before that, it was called Vanilla Sky. Guess what? It’s always been notori­ously dodgy. In a quest to pump out the strongest ever “party powder”, its makers sac­ri­ficed safety for a mar­ket­ing angle.

Earlier this year, the Irish gov­ern­ment had a number of legal highs ana­lysed includ­ing Ivory Wave and found that it con­tained MDPV (methyl­e­ne­di­oxypyro­va­ler­one), and lido­caine. Lido­caine is a local anaes­thetic, added to numb your nose, both to dull the pain of snort­ing the other stuff and to make it more like cocaine. This isn’t news though — a load of similar products around before the cath­inone ban con­tained it. MDPV on the other hand is wor­ry­ing.

MDPV appears to be a dopam­ine and norad­ren­aline reup­take inhib­itor, deliv­er­ing plenty of stim­u­la­tion but little in the way of euphoria. The vast major­ity of similar products avail­able before April’s cath­inone ban con­tained either mephed­rone (4-methyl­meth­cath­inone) or a flu­or­in­ated ana­logue such as 3-fluor­ou­meth­cath­inone. While these were also very stim­u­lat­ing, they delivered a much loved euphoria as well, so why would the makers of Ivory Wave depart from the norm and go for a sub­ject­ively worse com­pound instead? Because they just weren’t potent enough enough to earn Ivory Wave its repu­ta­tion as the strongest legal high avail­able.


A typical dose of mephed­rone or similar ana­logue for a new user would be around 50 — 100mg, while a typical dose of MDPV is around the 5 — 10mg mark. Sure, at that dose, the effects of MDPV don’t seem like much com­pared to mephed­rone et al, but when people are used to cheap cocaine or the major­ity of similar legal highs, they rack up their usual sized line and hoover up far more than an equi­val­ent dose of MDPV. As a con­sequence, users were fre­quently ter­ri­fied and unable to sleep for days on end. Well done, Ivory Wave, you truly are the strongest!

On April 16th, 2010, the UK passed legis­la­tion banning a huge number of com­pounds, includ­ing mephed­rone, all common avail­able deriv­at­ives includ­ing MDPV and a shit­load of the­or­et­ical com­pounds that haven’t been made yet. Despite the ori­ginal incarn­a­tion of Ivory Wave falling under the banning stick, on August 10th, there was a lot of fuss about legal highs includ­ing Ivory Wave hos­pit­al­ising about 20 people, so what’s going on?

Charge+Well, firstly, just because MDPV got banned, it doesn’t mean the man­u­fac­tur­ers couldn’t stick some new legal chem­ical in there and call it the same thing. I’m sure you’ve all seen a packet of crisps or a chocol­ate bar with “New improved recipe!!!!11” plastered all over the pack­aging — this is the same sort of thing. Of course, it’s not as inno­cent as that — these are psy­cho­act­ive sub­stances we’re talking about — but it’s nothing extraordin­ary. Products like Charge+ or Beanz pills have changed their ingredi­ents before, so that’s what I expec­ted had happened with Ivory Wave.

That doesn’t appear to be the case. Several web­sites selling the stuff now claim both that Ivory Wave is no longer for sale in the UK, sug­gest­ing it still con­tains MDPV, and that Ivory Wave found in the UK at the moment is fake. This leaves us with several pos­sible scen­arios.

  1. Ivory Wave avail­able in the UK is the same stuff it’s always been, and has been illeg­ally impor­ted.
  2. Ivory Wave avail­able in the UK is fake, but still con­tains MDPV. If this MDPV had to be illeg­ally sourced or man­u­fac­tured, it’s more likely to be impure, and these impur­it­ies are doing some damage.
  3. Ivory Wave avail­able in the UK is fake, but still a new product with new, legal and dan­ger­ous chem­ic­als in, trying to cap­it­al­ise on the ori­ginal Ivory Wave’s repu­ta­tion

At first glance, it looks like we can ignore the first one. If it’s been around for ages, why are we only hearing about it now? Well, before the cath­inone ban, Ivory Wave was def­in­itely the strongest, but nowhere near the most enjoy­able or popular product, so people tended to steer clear of it. However, when the ban came into effect, and somehow Ivory Wave was still around,  lots of people looking to find a “mephed­rone replace­ment” would have stumbled across it. This spike in pop­ular­ity makes scen­ario #1 as plaus­ible as the rest, so for now, it’s anyone’s guess.

If you find any new inform­a­tion making one of these scen­arios more likely, please let us all know!

For now, I’d advise anyone to steer clear, espe­cially the stuff in red foil packets as that’s the type most fre­quently men­tioned in the myriad forum posts on the topic.


JWH-018 was the main syn­thetic can­nabin­oid found in Spice and similar products in the UK last year. Here’s a couple of posts and comment threads here for some back­ground:

A large number of syn­thetic can­nabin­oids (along with GBL, BZP and related piperazines) were banned on Decem­ber 28th, 2009, but remained legal in the US, where the market has exploded just like it did here before the — the only dif­fer­ence is over there, the most popular brand is K2 rather than Spice.

Well, that was the only dif­fer­ence until very recently. In May, the smoking of K2 was “linked” to two deaths in Indiana — a rather odd situ­ation indeed! It seems there’s no con­clus­ive evid­ence avail­able to say that K2 actu­ally caused these deaths — it could be the same as all those people that appar­ently died of mephed­rone over here who didn’t actu­ally take it (Eg, Gabbi Price). However, just because we’ve been con­sist­ently lied to by the British press, it would be unwise to imme­di­ately rule out the other pos­sib­il­ity — that K2 is somehow killing these people. As it happens, we’ve also got some more evid­ence right here on this blog that sup­ports that con­clu­sion: this guy reports vomit­ing blood after oral inges­tion of JWH-018.

Here’s what I think. JWH-018 is safe, at least in the short term, so it’s not respons­ible for what we’re seeing. I reckon we’ve got a harmful con­tam­in­ant or impur­ity left over from the syn­thesis which is causing all the damage. If there was a bad batch going round, it would also help to explain why those two deaths are both in Indiana, although I’m not sure where that com­menter hails from.

Unfor­tu­nately, once again, this is all spec­u­la­tion, but it’s spec­u­la­tion based on all the evid­ence we have avail­able. For­tu­nately, David Kroll, who’s for­got­ten more phar­ma­co­logy than I know, has arrived at that same con­clu­sion — con­tam­in­a­tion. Be sure to check out his post for links to the ori­ginal stories, more detail and more spec­u­la­tion.

If you come across any more stories or bad batches, let us know!

For now, I’d advise those in the US to avoid any new brands popping up, avoid K2 in Indiana and, if you’re buying pure JWH-018, avoid it like the plague if it doesn’t exactly resemble the pre­vi­ous batches you’ve bought..

13 Responses to A Look At Legal Highs

  1. bomblol says:

    The main thing about jwh-018 (other than the pyro­lysis that happens in any smoking blend, although this isnt an issue if its pure jwh 018 by itself obvi­ously) that I’ve heard is the naph­thalene ring, which JWH-250 lacks, which may lead to 250 being safer than all the 250 com­pounds. AFAIK this is mostly spec­u­la­tion though, although i happen to enjoy the 250 high more anyway

  2. Top Cat says:

    What about the Ivory Wave ULTRA??? it appears all the hos­pit­al­isa­tions were from the ‘normal’ one.…

    Anyone got any comment on the ULTRA variety?
    (qual­it­at­ively it felt smoother and shorter than MDPV)

  3. Jules says:

    The ivory wave I pur­chased came from Hungary (post­mark gave that away) Yet to try yet.

  4. jane says:

    i am being taken to court after my daugh­ter took this ivory wave ultra i said it was mine and now am really con­fused was it legal in august or not i need to know

  5. Mike says:

    Jane, I believe it was legal until decem­ber

  6. BigD says:

    I live in Indiana and know all about the topic. First of all K2 is a brand that someone made a knock off off. These “knock­offs” are made in Indi­ana­polis IN. This company is the sole reason that 018 has been banned in the USA. They take straight clip­pings from the grass and fields of weeds and blend it in the grinder to make there “blend” This has caused many reac­tions do to pesti­cides fer­til­izers and what ever else decided to poop on that patch of grass. I have seen whole dan­delion heads in the package before. These “reac­tions” are from smoking mul­tiple sub­stances and chem­ic­als that were def­in­itely not made for smoking. This company pro­ceeded to the gas sta­tions and sold there product for 1$ a gram which not only flooded the market with dan­ger­ous product it also made it into hands of minors due to the damn Gas Station owners selling to anyone for a profit. Next step was nat­ur­ally media cov­er­age. Next step fear then u guessed it , a ban.

  7. Teri says:

    I smoke spice “Ice”. It was recently banned in Illinois. Any par­tic­u­lar reason why?

  8. brian says:

    i’v had leuk­iamia, bone marrow trans­plant, fight­ing H.V.G. that is still in the bal­lance. sidea­fect of lot,s of treat­ments has left me in a pickle, spacy stuff my wifew can,t recon­ise in the man she married, and suffer anxst’ spatt’s and blur’s… urk’sss & spurts.
    i;need med’s to contain spatt’s ‚n, anxztzness­ness.
    need herbal strain to quell/​distance/​comfort and smash me in n for just aa while untill my body can feel t,s self again

  9. brian says:

    what strain?

  10. K says:

    won­der­ing if anyone had any inform­a­tion on how to smoke Ivory Wave. I read to harden it up with baking soda. i read in a pipe or on tin foil. i just want to know the best way

  11. norongdoing says:

    i used pumpit and it left my nose with a bloody scab on the inside that will not go away. other than that i loved it.

  12. NotSafe says:

    JWH is not as safe as pot. You CAN over­dose on it. Now is it harmful if used prop­erly? Who knows… But it is being sold to people as actual marijuana or in com­bin­a­tion with real buds without their know­ledge, they try to smoke a blunt and end up in a mini-coma, and wake up with a shit­face head­ache. Plus JWH rapes your weed tol­er­ance.

  13. Chris says:

    the dan­ger­ous thing with jwh-18 is that people think about it dosage wise in terms of weed, which can cause alot of trouble. I can smoke a blunt with a friend made of kush, and be fine, but if u try that with spice, ur fucked. Also, to avoid getting dan­ger­ous batches, i make sure to buy a local brand, sure it costs a few bucks more, but its worth it 2 avoid inhal­ing pestacides.

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