Nice Guy drug is not very nice at all - editorial

The Nice Guy drug is highly dangerous and recently killed one man and hospitalized 39.

Nice Guy chemicals seized in Beersheba. (photo credit: COURTESY ISRAEL POLICE)
Nice Guy chemicals seized in Beersheba.

The Health Ministry and Israel Police issued a harsh warning last week that an illegal synthetic drug sold at kiosks across Israel known as “Mr. Nice Guy” can cause serious illness and even death.

The warning came after a 31-year-old man from Haifa died and 39 people were hospitalized having taken a particularly lethal version of the drug. According to a joint statement from the ministry and police, the drug had been laced with a poisonous substance – apparently rat poison – and a number of those taken to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa suffered from severe internal bleeding.

Mr. Nice Guy is “particularly dangerous because it is mixed with different substances including [other] drugs, poisonous materials, and pesticides, which change from distributor to distributor,” the statement said.

Following the death of the 31-year-old, two men aged 27 and 31 from Kiryat Motzkin and Haifa were detained for allegedly distributing the drug, and are likely to be charged with manslaughter.

A young man who had used the drug, his face twitching with anxiety, urged parents watching the Channel 12 News on Saturday night to ensure that their children do not take Mr. Nice Guy, which he warned was “poison.”

Israel banned Mr. Nice Guy and other synthetic cannabinoids, which had become popular among young people in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, in 2011. In 2013, the Knesset passed legislation titled “The Struggle Against the Phenomenon of the Use of Dangerous Substances Law,”  which seeks to solve the problem of the time interval between a psychoactive substance’s entry to the market and the declaration of the substance as a dangerous drug under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.

Drugs in Tel Aviv  (credit: Ben Hartman)Drugs in Tel Aviv (credit: Ben Hartman)

According to the Health Ministry, kiosk-sold drugs (samei pitzutziot in Hebrew) is a colloquial term that refers to a broad range of dangerous substances presented by vendors as “drug substitutes” and intended to cause a sensation of “getting high.”

These substances are sold in the form of tablets, solutions for inhalation and drinking, incense and blends for smoking, also using a narghile, the ministry says. Kiosk-sold drugs are presented as innocent and harmless, with misleading labels such as “100% legal,” “100% natural,” and “Not under the Drugs Ordinance!” appearing on the packaging. “In fact, these are drugs in the full sense of the word and they have a damaging and addictive effect, sometimes irreversibly,” the ministry stresses.

According to the ministry, teens and young adults are the main consumers of “kiosk-sold drugs” and therefore the main victims. “The physical and mental damage that accompanies the use of these drugs is sometimes irreversible,” it says, adding that side effects include psychotic attacks, paranoia, rage, restlessness and nervousness.

The kiosk-sold drugs may be a trigger for the outbreak of mental disease and may cause irreparable damage.  Even though these drugs are extremely dangerous, they often come in attractive and colorful packages which create the illusion that they are just like candy or fragrant incense for a narghile, the ministry notes, adding that this false appearance is intended to induce youths to purchase the product.

Besides Mr. Nice Guy, other examples of kiosk-sold drugs include “Mabsuton,” “Mastolon,” “Herzl gives you wings,” “Super Mario” and “Hagigat” capsules. These drugs are mostly composed of cannabis derivatives and usually several times stronger in effect and more addictive. They are marketed in the form of capsules to be swallowed or “weeds” for smoking which are sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids and dangerous chemical substances such as ether and acetone to enhance their effect.

“Amphetamines cause a sensation of euphoria in the user,” the ministry says. “However, they have serious side effects on blood vessels and the heart, and sometimes cause psychoses, convulsions and even death.”

We suspect that the use of drugs in general and kiosk drugs such as Mr. Nice Guy, in particular, has increased during the corona pandemic, as people seek avenues of escape. Under the legislation passed by the Knesset, drugs such as Mr. Nice Guy should not be available for purchase in kiosks or anywhere else. Police must be ordered to enforce the law vigilantly throughout the country, and schools should teach their students the dangers posed by drugs of all kinds.

In addition, the Health Ministry should fund a new public awareness campaign against kiosk drugs. They can call it “No More Mr. Nice Guy!”