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Designer drug is a term used to describe drugs which are created (or marketed, if they had already existed) to get around existing drug laws, usually by modifying the molecular structures of existing drugs to varying degrees,[dubious – discuss] or less commonly by finding drugs with entirely different chemical structures that produce similar subjective effects to illegal recreational drugs. For example mephedrone is a designer drug. History
The term "designer drug" was first coined by law enforcement in the 1980s, and has gained widespread use. However the first appearance of what would now be termed designer drugs occurred well before this, in the 1920s. Following the passage of the second International Opium Convention in 1925 which specifically banned morphine and the diacetyl ester of morphine, heroin, a number of alternative esters of morphine quickly started to be manufactured and sold. The most notable of these were dibenzoylmorphine and acetylpropionylmorphine, which has virtually identical effects to heroin but were not covered by the Opium Convention. This then led the Health Committee of the League of Nations to pass several resolutions attempting to bring these new drugs under control, ultimately leading in 1930 to the first broad analogues provisions extending legal control to all esters of morphine, oxycodone and hydromorphone. Another early example of what could loosely be termed designer drug use, was during the Prohibition era in the 1930s, when diethyl ether was sold and used as an alternative to illegal alcoholic beverages in a number of countries.  1960s-1970s
During the 1960s and 1970s, a number of new synthetic hallucinogens were introduced, with a notable example being the sale of highly potent tablets of DOM in San Francisco in 1967. There was little scope to prosecute people over drug analogues at this time, with new compounds instead being added to the controlled drug schedules one by one as they became a problem, but one significant court case from this period was in 1973, when Tim Scully and Nicholas Sand were prosecuted for making the acetyl amide of LSD, known as ALD-52. At this time ALD-52 was not a controlled drug, but they were convicted on the grounds that in order to make ALD-52, they would have had to be in possession of LSD, which was illegal. The late 1970s also saw the introduction of various analogues of phencyclidine (PCP) to the illicit market, although few of them were well accepted by users with only TCP and PCE becoming widely used.  1980s-early 1990s
The modern use of the term designer drug was coined in the 1980s to refer to various synthetic opioid drugs, mostly based on the fentanyl molecule (such as α-methylfentanyl). The term gained widespread popularity when MDMA (ecstasy) experienced a popularity boom in the mid 1980s. When the term was coined in the 1980s, a wide range of narcotics were being sold as heroin on the black market. Many were based on fentanyl or meperidine. One, MPPP, was found in some cases to contain an impurity called MPTP, which caused brain damage that could result in a syndrome identical to full-blown Parkinson's disease, from only a single dose. Other problems were highly potent fentanyl analogues, which were sold as China White, that caused many accidental overdoses. Because the government was powerless to prosecute people for these drugs until after they had been marketed successfully, laws were passed to give the DEA power to emergency schedule chemicals for a year, with an optional 6-month extension, while gathering evidence to justify permanent scheduling, as well as the analogue laws mentioned previously. Emergency-scheduling power was used for the first time for MDMA. In this case, the DEA scheduled MDMA as a Schedule I drug and retained this classification after review, even though their own judge ruled that MDMA...