Kronic, More than a Herbal High

By Michael Edmonds 01/07/2011 23


Kronic has been referred to as a herbal high, however, recent revelations suggest that the high derived from these products is far more likely to be due to manufactured psychoactive substances which have been added to the herbal mix. These compounds include JHW018, a cannabinoid which is prohibited in Germany and JHW073, a cannabinoid the effects of which have not been studied in humans. And in the case of one product (Pineapple Express) which has now been withdrawn, the presence of phenazepam, a prescription medicine. (Phenazepam is used to treat anxiety and epilepsy and is used as a sedative).

Importers of these products have claimed that they do not know how the products were “contaminated” with phenazepam but point out that it is “only” present at 300 ppm. This raises two concerns:

1) How poor must the quality control processes be in the manufacture of these substances be to allow contamination by a prescription drug?

2) 300 ppm may sound like a small amount, however, this means that as little as 1.7 g of the contaminated product could contain 0.5 mg of phenazepam, the standard therapeutic dose when it is taken orally. *

* While it is unclear if phenazepam can be absorbed by inhalation, the misuse of a prescription drug by using in it a manner for which it was not designed seems inherently risky. Changing the method by which a drug is introduced into the body can increase/decrease a drugs potency and/or result in the production of unanticipated byproducts.

Cannabinoids JWH018 and 073  were originally synthesised to study how cannabinoids work in the body and also as potential drugs for use with AIDS, multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy treatments. These compounds proved unsuccessful as drugs and very little research has been done on their potential effects on humans, though there is some early evidence that they can cause psychosis in susceptible people.

The fact that these synthetic cannabinoids can be incorporated into these sorts of products highlights a major loophole in current drug legislation whereby manufacturers are not required to prove the safety of these products – rather the onus is on the government to show that they are harmful. A sharp contrast to pharmaceutical drugs which undergo a battery of tests to show they are safe to use (and even then occasionally problems still occur).

With a little searching of the internet I found a list of the purported herbal compounds on Kronic. This list played a lot on the fact that herbs such as passionvine, skullcap, peppermint and wild lettuce have beneficial properties, for example, skullcap is purported to contain antioxidants and be a natural treatment for arthritis. However, I suspect these properties, relate more to ingestion, rather than inhalation of their smoke. It seems highly unlikely that many antioxidants survive the burning process and it is well documented that smoke of any kind contains carcinogenic compounds.

Kronic may provide consumers with a high, but to claim that this high is either natural or has health benefits flies in the face of common sense. The risks of using such products also seem uncertain. As Professor John W. Huffman, the organic chemist who first synthesised these compounds has said (and from whom the initials of these compounds are derived i.e. JWH) about these products

“It’s like playing Russian roulette, you don’t know what it’s going to do to you. You’re a potential winner of a Darwin award.


23 Responses to “Kronic, More than a Herbal High”

  • What evidence do you have that phenazepam survives being burnt and can be absorbed the smoke of burnt Kronic? If phenazepam does not survive combustion, then your claim “it would take less than 2 g of this herbal product to reach the usually prescribed medicinal dose of 0.5 mg” is without foundation. It seems strange that you consider the combustion of the allged herbal antioxidants in Kronic, but neglect to present evidence that phenazepam survives combustion.

  • Rosalind,

    Good point, those two statements are potentially inconsistent,

    But can you provide evidence that phenazepam does not survive combustion?

    One might infer from the fact that phenazepam has most likely been added on purpose* that at least the manufacturers consider it will have an effect.

    * It seems very strange to me that two products have been “contaminated” with a prescription drug.

  • Since you are the person claiming that the phenazepam in Kronic will have a pharmacological effect, and writing in terms of a given dose administered, I think the onus is on you to prove that it survives combustion, rather than on me to prove that it doesn’t. Furthermore, even if it survives combustion, it is rash indeed to extrapolate from oral dose to inhaled dose, because ADME will differ with route of administration.
    The manufacturers may be adding it in hopes that it will survive combustion, with no evidence that it does.

  • Rosalind

    “Since you are the person claiming that the phenazepam in Kronic will have a pharmacological effect”

    Umm, no I haven’t. I simply pointed out that while 300 ppm sounds like a small amount, such a concentration would be the equivalent of a medicinal dose in less the 2 g of the product.

    You are of course correct to point out that this may not survive the combustion process. However, seeing neither of us has been able to demonstrate it one way or the other, I would have thought it prudent to err on the side of caution.

    Whether or not it survives combustion, the fact is still that phenazepam is a prescription drug, it should not be present in such compounds, and that 300 ppm is a significant “contamination” which makes me believe that the contamination was intentional.

  • To me, writing “it would take less than 2 g of this herbal product to reach the usually prescribed medicinal dose of 0.5 mg” indicates that you are saying that smoking 2 g of Kronic would result in the pharmacological effect of 0.5 mg administered orally. If that is not what you meant, I think you should amend your article.

  • Rosalind,

    Thank you for pointing out that the blog article infers something I didn’t intend it to. Amendment will be forthcoming.

  • Kronic is an amazing new high strength, potent incense blend. It emits a pleasant, very relaxing smoke when burnt. Ensure adequate ventilation and use responsibly. This pleasant smoke is the perfect solution if you like to get high but can’t because of those pesky work imposed drug tests. Kronic will get you high and keep you worry free.

  • While the post by marajuana is obviously spam, I thought I would let it through to demonstrate the way it is marketed without mentioning some of the various problems that have been in the news.

  • Thanks John,

    Though I wonder if the heat from a “joint” of chronic is enough to decompose it.
    Also I don’t think you can get toxic fumes of Cl and Br ions? Perhaps that should read chlorine and bromine gases?

  • Just about everything is toxic, or not toxic, depending on dose. Even oxygen is a toxic gas, given high enough concentration and duration. Where is the evidence that there is enough phenazepam in a Kronic joint to release fumes of any atom or molecule at a toxic dose?

  • An interesting discussion… firstly, if Kronic has a prescription medicine in it it is already an illegal substance. More legislation won’t fix that.

    Secondly, the fact that phenazepam is not a common benzodiazepine would suggest that it was deliberately added to the mix by SOMEONE… I know Matt Bowden in a professional sense having undertaken risk analysis work for him and advised on amendments incorporated into the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005 c2004-6… I would be extremely surprised if he added it…

    Thirdly, there is no magic test that detects all things… unless one had reason to test for benzodiapines, one wouldn’t.

    Rosalind is correct to challenge the assumption that because its in a cigarette it will not be destroyed and it will be absorbed if smoked. The MOH and ESR have certainly undertaken blood tests on smokers of it so they will know what the blood levels are… the fact that they haven’t divulged those test results is not surprising as they’ll be considering prosecuting… however, based on my working experience of them they won’t… they rarely do…

  • In my opinion, products such as Kronic are medicines as defined in the medicines act. s3 of the Act defines a medicine as any substance or article, other than a medical device, that is manufactured, imported, sold, or supplied wholly or principally—
    (a) For administering to one or more human beings for a
    therapeutic purpose; or
    (b) For use as an ingredient in the preparation of any substance
    or article that is to be administered to one or more
    human beings for a therapeutic purpose, where it is so
    used—
    (i) In a pharmacy or a hospital; or
    (ii) By a practitioner, or registered midwife, or designated
    prescriber, or in accordance with a standing
    order; or
    (iii) In the course of any business that consists of
    or includes the retail sale, or the supply in circumstances
    corresponding to retail sale, of herbal
    remedies; or
    (c) For use as a pregnancy test.

    s4 defines therapeutic purpose as…(a) Treating or preventing disease; or
    (b) Diagnosing disease or ascertaining the existence, degree,
    or extent of a physiological condition; or
    (c) Effecting contraception; or
    (d) Inducing anaesthesia; or
    (e) Altering the shape, structure, size, or weight of the
    human body; or
    (f) Otherwise preventing or interfering with the normal operation
    of a physiological function, whether permanently
    or temporarily, and whether by way of terminating or reducing or postponing, or increasing or accelerating,
    the operation of that function, or in any other way; or
    (g) Cleaning, soaking, or lubricating contact lenses.

    Medsafe have told me that Kronic doesn’t fit this definition despite acknowledging a physiological effect and the fact that that’s the purpose of it being sold….

  • Further, one would assume that given that benzodiazepines are know to be absorbed transdermally and sublingually, it would be logical to conclude that they’d be absorbed via nasal, tracheal and bronchial mucosal cells assuming they survived the burning of the cigarette.

  • Just to comment on one minor point. Ron mentions that there is no test that detects everything. This is 100% correct, tv shows that mention “Tox screens” and always pick up exactly what is the problem without any idea of the target are fantasy.

    I assume this is in response to Michael’s reference to quality control. Two things to note, 1. I didn’t really get this from Michael’s point. I saw it as a refering to allowing any contaminants, not finding them once they have been incorporated into the product. 2. Depending on the testing modality used you can find things you aren’t looking for so long as the test is sufficiently non-specific.

    I’m used to GCMS analysis so perhaps this gives me a biased view but if the test has been set up to screen for a wide category of unknowns (as a QC check theoretically should be) then you can see anomalous components that can then be focused on and identified. Especially if they ar present in significant amounts (which 300 ppm actually is, sounds small but in this sort of analysis is huge.)

    Just my 2 cents.

  • The fact that someone added phenazepam to Kronic shows that they hope that it will have a pharmacological effect, not that they know it will.

    While gases that can reach the alveoli can be very well absorbed, depending on how lipophilic they are, the mucosal cells of the nose, nasopharynx, larynx, trachea and bronchi are not generally particularly good sites for drug absorption from smoke, because of the protective role of the mucociliary apparatus. Anything that sticks onto, or is absorbed into, the mucus layer is most often transported out of the respiratory tract by the mucociliary apparatus and is generally then swallowed (unless you spit, or blow your nose). The respiratory tract has evolved some good protective mechanisms.

    I remain unconvinced that the phenazepam added to a joint of Kronic would reach a pharmacological level in the brain, unless and until ESR, or whoever, demonstrate that a pharmacological level of phenazepam can be found in the circulation after smoking a joint of Kronic. As AC Doyle had Sherlock Holmes remark, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

  • Rosalind,

    “I remain unconvinced that the phenazepam added to a joint of Kronic would reach a pharmacological level in the brain, unless and until ESR, or whoever, demonstrate that a pharmacological level of phenazepam can be found in the circulation after smoking a joint of Kronic.”

    Agreed, however, I think it would also be a mistake to assume that the phenazepam has no effect. It will be interesting to see what ESR comes up with.
    Anyway, the fact that these products contain a prescription medicine makes them illegal to sell whether or not the phenazepam would have an effect. It also indicates that those selling these products have no idea (and perhaps no concern) for what is in them.

  • I’m not assuming anything. I’m waiting for facts. I’d say that you (Michael Edmonds) and Ron Law are the ones doing the assuming…not to mention the theorizing ahead of any data.

  • Rosalind,
    I didn’t say you were assuming anything, and neither am I. I have simply pointed out some possibilities, something quite valid in science.
    And while I enjoy the fiction of A. C. Doyle his Sherlock Holmes character did tend to make an incredible number of assumptions himself.

  • Rosalind… I’m on your side on this… having been involved in risk analysis and regulatory work relating to BZP I can assure readers that much of what has been published is more about politics than science… the politics is to create a problem that has public support to solve… as I pointed out before, the benzodiazepine is already an illegal substance… the fact that Medsafe hasn’t prosecuted is a mystery… but then again, they rarely do even when illegal drugs are found in supplements…

  • After being a illegal smoker for 30 years,I thought I’ll give this a go, yes the effect was as good as the real thing. Now 6 months on I will be going back to nature,I will have to break the law to keep away from the legal highs.

  • I have tried the legal smoke and I agree that it does work. Not quite as nice a taste as the real stuff, but not bad and I don’t have to be afraid of a knock at the door. Helps my paranoia 🙂

  • The phenazepam was added because the person in charge of importing the cannabanoids from china was to incompetant to keep up with the rapidly accellerating demand and turned to contacts from eastern european organised criminals operating in auckland (now in jail) to help, they supplied him the phenazapam which was added to the ‘Pineapple express” in an atempt to hide his personal failure in maintaining a supply of jhw-018 et al..

    , So this person single handedly destroyed Mr Bowdens (and plenty of others) livelyhood while claiming to be his friend.