ICE participates in nationwide synthetic drug takedown


ICE participates in nationwide synthetic drug takedown

 

WASHINGTON – More than 90 individuals were arrested and approximately five million packets of finished designer synthetic drugs were seized in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food. More than $36 million in cash was also seized.

As of today, more than 4.8 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids (K2, Spice) and the products to produce nearly 13.6 million more, as well as 167,000 packets of synthetic cathinones (bath salts), and the products to produce an additional 392,000 were seized.

Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from the IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as state and local law enforcement members in more than 109 U.S. cities and targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

“Today, we struck a huge blow to the synthetic drug industry. The criminal organizations behind the importation, distribution and selling of these synthetic drugs have scant regard for human life in their reckless pursuit of illicit profits,” said Acting Director of ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations James Chaparro. “ICE is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to bring this industry to its knees.”

“Although tremendous progress has been made in legislating and scheduling these dangerous substances, this enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we are committed to targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative and investigative tool at our disposal.”

“The synthetic drug industry is an emerging area where we can leverage our financial investigative expertise to trace the path of illicit drug proceeds by identifying the financial linkages among the various co-conspirators,” said Richard Weber, chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and ultimately dismantle the highest level drug trafficking and drug money laundering organizations that pose the greatest threat to Americans and American interests.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service aggressively investigates the use of the U.S. Mail system for the distribution of illegal controlled substances and its proceeds. Our agency uses a multi-tiered approach to these crimes: protection against the use of the mail for illegal purposes and enforcement of laws against drug trafficking and money laundering. This includes collaboration with other agencies,” said Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell.

“The mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is to guard our country’s borders from people and goods that could harm our way of life,” said Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar. “We are proud to be part of an operation that disrupts the flow of synthetic drugs into the country and out of the hands of the American people.”

Over the past several years, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe.

These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols that have been set up by employers and government agencies to protect public safety. They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.

Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have also become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Just as with the synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.

While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.

DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called bath salts like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.

In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic “Spice” and “bath salts.” In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger

INFO FROM http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1207/120726washingtondc.htm

‘Bath Salts’ A Deadly New Drug


Bath Salts, sold in small packets with names like “Blue Wave,” “Cloud Nine,” and “White Lady,” are the newest — and scariest — designer drug. (Image of legitimate bath salts via Wikipedia)

Can the headlines really have it right?  Is there really a new drug that makes people so violent they bite each others’ faces off? I wish this was a News of the Worldheadline that we could all dismiss, along with the stories of alien babies and women giving birth at 95. But in this case, the headlines do have it right — sort of.

Yes, unfortunately, there’s a new drug making its way into communities across the country and it’s really, really scary.

How scary? Well, in the incident described in the current headlines, a 31-year-old man, Rudy Eugene of Miami, attacked a 65-year-old homeless man, stripped off all his clothes, dived on top of him, and started chewing off his face. Eugene had a history of run-ins with the police, and had been accused of domestic violence, but his history hadn’t suggested a risk of public violence. The explanation — if there is one — seems to be that bath salts can trigger a full-blown psychotic episode with extreme delusions.

Who knows what type of hallucination would lead someone to eat another person’s face, but you can imagine it would have to be a pretty extreme and vivid one. Reports from onlookers characterized Eugene as a “zombie,” behaving as if he were under the control of some evil spectre.

So what are “Bath Salts” – and how did the drug get this ridiculously misleading name?

Like Ecstasy and methamphetamine, the drug known as “bath salts” is a designer drug, which means it’s synthetic, concocted in a lab. (On the street, it’s also sometimes called “bath powder,” “herbal incense,” or “plant food.”) What makes the term “bath salts” more confusing, though, is that name is used for a surprisingly large number of different chemical combinations.

To understand what the drug does, think of “bath salts” as a cross between meth and acid. Well, sort of. Like cocaine, meth, and speed, bath salts work by stimulating the central nervous system, kicking it into overdrive, if you will. But the drug also apparently causes paranoid delusions and/or hallucinations. Experts are saying it’s psychoactive, rather than hallucinogenic like acid, but the end result appears to be similar: delusional beliefs acted upon in violent ways.

The key ingredients that go into bath salts are the synthetic compounds MDPV (3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone), mephedrone, pyrovalerone, and methylone. But there are many other ingredients used in addition to these, or in place of them. For example, many of the “bath salts” seized have been found to contain extremely high levels of caffeine.

MDPV and mephedrone, the most common bath salts, originated as synthetic versions of a natural ingredient found in Khat (Catha edulis), a hallucinogenic plant found in eastern Africa. Cathinone, the active ingredient in khat, is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning illegal. However,  MDPV and mephedrone were legal until Fall 2011 when the FDA banned them, but underground chemists keep skirting the law by slightly altering the chemical compounds to come up with new versions that are technically legal. The FDA now refers to bath salts as a “designer drug of the phenethylamine class.” Slang names for mephedrone include “meph,” “drone”, and MCAT.

Yikes! Where did bath salts come from?

Currently, the chemicals we call “bath salts” are most frequently manufactured and imported from China and Europe, but drug officials say it’s only a matter of time before American drug-cookers begin making them. The history of bath salts is both fascinating and frightening. The drug was actually first formulated in France in the 1920s, but disappeared until it was rediscovered from the obscurity of academia by an underground chemist. He published the recipe on a website known as called the Hive, which was shut down in 2004 for sharing waaayyyy too much info about illegal substances. But the word was out, and the drug became extremely popular all over Europe.

It might be interesting to those in the pharmaceutical and chemical fields to note that bath salts were legal in Israel starting around 2004, sold under the name hagigat. Once declared illegal, the cathinone was modified and another Israeli company, Neorganics, sold the drug as pills and liquids under several names, including Neodoves, until the Israeli government specifically made mephedrone illegal in 2008.

In the UK, various drugs in the bath salts category have become a serious problem, passed out like candy at music festivals and easily available at head shops and on the street. They’re now listed just behind marijuana, Ecstasy, and cocaine as the fourth most popular street drug.

Bath salts are cheap, innocent looking, easy to obtain, and many people think they’re legal, or at least know they’re unlikely to be caught and prosecuted for using them. Bath salts come in little packets with soothing names like “Blue Silk”, “Bliss,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Ivory Wave,” and cost just $25-60 a packet. (Actually, according to one website, some have much scarier sounding names like “Crazy Train,” “White Slut,” and”Eight Ballz”.)

Bath salts can be smoked, snorted,  or injected. The initial symptoms are positive, including relaxation, euphoria, and a sense of warmth and wellbeing similar to Ecstasy. But pretty quickly a darker side of the drug kicks in.

The symptoms of being dangerously high on bath salts include (but aren’t limited to):

  • extreme paranoia

    The FDA has banned the active ingredients in “Bath Salts” but drug designers keep a step ahead.

  • elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse
  • extremely high body temperature
  • sleep deprivation
  • vivid hallucinations
  • hostility or aggression
  • strange eye movements
  • extreme sweating
  • panic attacks
  • suicidal thoughts

Oddly, given the list of symptoms above, another reported side effect of bath salts is “an intense desire to use the drug again.” In other words, it’s highly addictive. Overdoses of bath salts can quickly turn into emergencies because of the lack of knowledge about the drug. Because “bath salts” is a collective term for a bunch of different ingredients, there’s no test to determine if someone took the drug. The only way to know for sure is if the user admits that’s what they took.

Bath Salts and Crime

Bath salts are absurdly easy to get hold of. They’re sold in “head shops” all over the country and even behind the counters in many convenience stores. Reports of violence associated with “bath salts” have been confused by the use of different names for the drug compounds. But those who’ve taken them report feeling that they experienced “pure evil.” Here are just a few of the episodes reported around the country:

  • California: Two 15-year-old boys fell violently ill and developed small holes in their lungs after consuming mephedrone, which they thought was MDMA. The drug was sold to them by a student at a nearby college.
  • Colorado: A drug called Alpha-PVP, a type of bath salt, led to a young man’s death by strangulation when friends tried to restrain him during a violent fit.
  • Washington: Investigators believe that a double murder-suicide in which a man killed his wife and five-year-old son, then shot himself.
  • Louisiana: A 21-year-old Louisiana man slit his throat in front of his family after he snorted bath salts, because he believed police were after him.
  • Pennsylvania: Police arrested a couple high on bath salts who had nearly cut their 5-year-old daughter with a knife, which they were using to stab the “90 people” they believed were “living in the walls” of their apartment.
  • Kentucky: A prison guard off duty reportedly high on bath salts was cited for 10 different acts of violence in two different towns, and ultimately had to be tasered.
  • West Virginia: A man high on bath salts was found wandering the woods in lingerie after he allegedly stabbed a goat.
  • Indiana: A man committed suicide after telling his family for weeks that the FBI were following him and watching him eat.
  • Ohio: A young man was fatally shot after he held a knife to his girlfriend’s neck.
  • California: Two recent suicides have been attributed to bath salts.
  • Police around the country say they’re seeing a spike in domestic violence and assault cases connected with bath salts.

Is Bath Salts an Epidemic?

No, nowhere close. The real drug epidemic is oxycodone, which is now the second highest cause of accidental death in the U.S., behind car accidents.

But what’s scary about bath salts is how the drug seems to have appeared out of nowhere, and how fast it’s taking hold. In the past year, the number of calls to poison control centers about bath salts increased more than 20 times, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, from 304 reports in 2010 to 6,138 in 2011. According to the FDA, no reports of the drug surfaced until 2009, during which the FDA reported two cases. By the following year there were more than 300 cases, and by last year the number had tripled to over 900 cases.

That’s a tiny number, to be sure. But those most often using the drugs are kids and teens, whose brains and central nervous systems are still developing. In fact, experts say the drugs are marketed directly to kids, with cartoon characters on the colorful packages.

So we have a drug that’s easily available, inexpensive, innocent sounding, and profoundly addictive. Doesn’t that sound to you like we’re going to have a serious new drug problem on our hands in a few years?

Frankfort bans compounds found in synthetic drugs


The village board of trustees Thursday night unanimously passed legislation banning many of the ingredients in bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
Specifically, the local law banned a number of compounds and derivatives of compounds that make up the drugs.
Anyone caught in possession of or using synthetic marijuana or bath salts with these ingredients within the village limits could be subject to a fine and time in jail.
The law took effect immediately.
Frankfort Police Chief Ronald Petrie said the substances and compounds – many of which have not yet been classified as illegal under federal and state law – pose a risk to the life, health and safety of users and the public at large.
“Due to the unpredictable nature of people under the influence of bath salts, there is a safety concern for residents and officers,” he said.
With a surge in the number of people using bath salts, a methamphetamine-like stimulant that can cause intense hallucinations, paranoia and violet behavior, on the rise nationally and locally, Petrie said the ban was necessary.
“This is a growing epidemic and this law gives the village something that can be enforced,” he said.
Similar to local laws passed in the village of Herkimer and the city of Utica, and to the local law being considered in the village of Dolgeville, the ordinance is broadly worded to include any and all synthetic drugs, even those that do not exist yet. Petrie said this was done to make sure the drugs can not change faster than the law. He also said the village of Frankfort’s local law is in addition to the state and national ban.
“This ban gives the village the ability to prosecute offenders,” he said. “It’s a law that minimizes the threat to persons residing in and visiting the village.”
Mayor Frank Moracco called on all municipalities in Herkimer County to adopt a law banning the compounds found in synthetic marijuana and bath salts of their own.
“This is something everyone needs to be the same page on,” said Moracco. “This is something that is plaguing the whole area, and it is something that residents and first responders are having an issue with. It’s an issue not only in the village of Frankfort, but throughout Herkimer County and Central New York, and it’s reach is far greater than that.”
The village of Frankfort’s local law combined language found in federal, state and other local laws to ensure the best punishment for offenders.
Individuals found selling or possessing bath salts or any derivative of the drug in the village could face up to $250 in fines and 30 days in jail.

New law passed regarding synthetic drugs


CHARLESTON – Information released to law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys concerning the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 being passed into law as part of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Safety Innovation Act was welcome news for all.

This law will provide a critical boost to the nation’s efforts to address and curtail the threat of synthetic drugs.

On July 11, President Obama signed the important piece of legislation banning synthetic compounds commonly found in synthetic marijuana (a.k.a. Spice), synthetic stimulants (Bath Salts) and hallucinogens, by placing them under the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Although this federal ban provides a valuable tool in keeping these dangerous substances off the shelves, states that have not already done so are encouraged to incorporate these substances into their state drug schedules to ensure that state law enforcement agencies have full authority to act against these substances.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will continue to work with state and local authorities to investigate major distribution networks, but retail and community-level enforcement will continue to occur largely on a state and local level.

Officials say they expect that this law will have an impact on illicit sales of these newly scheduled synthetic drugs, at least in the short term. However, federal and state agencies will have to continue to update the list of banned substances as new synthetic compounds emerge. In addition, some state and localities have experienced success in using additional health, safety, or agricultural authorities to remove these substances from retail shelves.

Research shows that preventing drug abuse before it begins is a cost-effective, common-sense approach to promoting safe and healthy communities. In the coming weeks, a Synthetic Drug Prevention Tool Kit which will serve as a resource for communities dealing with this issue will be unveiled. The agencies overseeing and managing these training programs will continue to partner with state, local and community officials in addressing the challenge of ending this wave of synthetic controlled substances that has swept through the U.S.

As part of a lawsuit against a major distributor of “designer drugs” (synthetic compounds), WV Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced on Thursday a preliminary injunction that bans Georgia-based Nutragenomics Manufacturing, LLC from selling and advertising its “bath salts” and other synthetic drug chemicals in the state.

Under the court order, Nutragenomics is prohibited from conducting business within WV and must prominently place a notice on all of its Internet pages that it is banned from selling to WV residents. They must not deceive consumers by claiming that its chemical compounds are legal or benign. The company must also provide a database identifying any and all customers in WV that have made purchases of the synthetic products between Jan. 1, 2008 and present. Itemized lists of the purchases will contain the product purchased, quantity and frequency orders, along with the customer’s name, address and telephone number. This list must be provided to the Attorney General’s office within 50 days.

Commonly sold as incense, bath salts and plant food, the drugs imitate the effects of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine. Although they were banned in WV more than a year ago, police are still finding them.

Doctors consider the synthetic drugs to be more dangerous than their counterparts because they have been linked to serious side effects such as extreme paranoia hypertension, seizures and death.

The lawsuit filed in April by McGraw also asks that money received from the sales be turned over to the state, and that a $5,000 civil penalty be imposed on the defendants for each violation.

“We’re still seeking penalties and we want a permanent ban,” stated Assistant Attorney General Matthew Stonestreet. “I think that’s one thing both parties agree on – they don’t want to be here anymore and we don’t want them here.”

“I don’t think they want to mess around with us.”

In Mingo County, numerous cases involving defendants who had ingested the synthetic drugs have occurred over the past year, and according to Williamson City Police Chief C.D. Rockel, dealing with someone who is high on these types of drugs as opposed to prescription drug abuse can vary greatly.

“In my personal experiences with arrests that have involved the use of bath salts, you find yourself dealing with a defendant that possesses super-human strength, and who is not capable of rational thinking and does not comprehend or understand anything you are saying,” explained Rockel.

“You might as well be talking to the wall because you get the same reaction. They typically get fixated on a subject and will keep repeating themselves over and over again. They fail to possess the ability to think or act sensibly.”

Chief Rockel spoke of a recent incident that occurred in the Emergency Room of the Williamson Memorial Hospital, in which he and 6 other officers from various police agencies responded to a call of an out of control patient that had taken bath salts.

“He was a big guy to start with, and I’m sure he was pretty strong. Add the side effects of bath salts into the mixture and we had a very dangerous situation,” stated Rockel. “It took all seven of us to get him restrained enough for the medical professionals to get an I.V. started and administer the medication to calm him down.”

The WPD recently attended a class to receive their certification to carry and use a taser. Although these are still the best means of subduing an irate, out of control person, the chief told the Daily News that an individual who has taken bath salts will still manage to fight you and resist arrest a lot quicker after being tased than someone who hasn’t ingested the synthetic drugs.

“Usually, you would have at least 3-5 seconds from the time the jolt is delivered to the defendant before they are able to control their motor skills. However; this time frame is greatly decreased when they’re high on bath salts. They seem to regain control of their body as soon as you remove your hand from the trigger of the taser,” Rockel said.

“This is a circumstance where an officer would be justified and well within their legal limits to initiate a second jolt with the taser, especially if he is alone without other officers present.”

Another alarming fact about the synthetic drugs is that there is still no definite protocol to follow, meaning that doctors or paramedics do not know exactly what they’re supposed to do in the case of an overdose with bath salts, like they would if the patient overdosed on a prescription drug they’re familiar with that has guidelines set by the FDA. “

“It’s a very scary time when you’re faced with this dilemma,” commented the chief. “I’m hoping the new law that was recently passed regarding these drugs will aid in curtailing the sale and use of them before we end up seeing more deaths that are attributed and connected to the synthetic chemicals.”

“They’re not safe in any shape, form or fashion, and people need to wise up and realize what the consequences of using them will do to their health, as well as the legal problems they will end up with if they’re caught buying, selling or using.”

Synthetic Stimulants Called ‘Bath Salts’ Act in the Brain Like Cocaine


ScienceDaily REPORTS –

The use of the synthetic stimulants collectively known as “bath salts” have gained popularity among recreational drug users over the last five years, largely because they were readily available and unrestricted via the Internet and at convenience stores, and were virtually unregulated.

 

In October 2011, the US Drug Enforcement Administration placed mephedrone on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act for one year, pending further study. Now, results of a new study offer compelling evidence for the first time that mephedrone, like cocaine, does have potential for abuse and addiction. (Credit: US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA))

Recent studies point to compulsive drug taking among bath salts users, and several deaths have been blamed on the bath salt mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone or “meow-meow”). This has led several countries to ban the production, possession, and sale of mephedrone and other cathinone derivative drugs.

In October 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration placed mephedrone on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act for one year, pending further study. “Basically, the DEA was saying we don’t know enough about these drugs to know how potentially dangerous they could be, so we’re going to make them maximally restricted, gather more data, and then come to a more reasoned decision as to how we should classify these compounds,” said C.J. Malanga, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He is also a member of the UNC’s Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies.

Now, results of a new study led by Malanga offer compelling evidence for the first time that mephedrone, like cocaine, does have potential for abuse and addiction. “The effects of mephedrone on the brain’s reward circuits are comparable to similar doses of cocaine,” he said. “As expected our research shows that mephedrone likely has significant abuse liability.”

A report of the study was published online on June 21, 2012 by the journal Behavioural Brain Research. The report’s first author and MD/PhD student at UNC J. Elliott Robinson points out that mephedrone and other potentially addictive stimulants “inappropriately activate brain reward circuits that are involved in positive reinforcement. These play a role in the drug ‘high’ and compulsive drug taking.”

The study of laboratory mice used intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS), a technique developed in the 1950s that can measure a drug’s ability to activate reward circuits. In ICSS studies, animals are trained to perform a behavioral task (pressing a lever or a button with their nose or, as in this study, spinning a wheel) to receive a reward: direct stimulation of the brain pathways involved in reward perception.

During the study, adult animals were implanted with brain stimulating electrodes. Measures of their wheel spinning effort were made before, during and after they received various doses of either mephedrone or cocaine.

“One of the unique features of ICSS is that all drugs of abuse, regardless of how they work pharmacologically, do very similar things to ICSS: they make ICSS more rewarding,” Malanga said. “Animals work harder to get less of it [ICSS] when we give them these drugs.”

Indeed, as was expected, cocaine increased the ability of mice to be rewarded by self-stimulation. “And what we found, which is new, is that mephedrone does the same thing. It increases the rewarding potency of ICSS just like cocaine does. ”

Malanga said the study supports the idea that mephedrone and drugs like it may have significant addiction potential, “and justifies the recent legislation to maintain maximum restriction to their access by the Food and Drug Administration.” On July 9 President Obama signed into law legislation passed by Congress to permanently ban the sale of bath salts in the U.S.

Along with Malanga and Robinson, other UNC co-authors are Abigail E. Agoglia, Eric W. Fish, and Michael E. Krouse.

Support for the research comes from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which are components of the National Institutes of Health.

Share this story on FacebookTwitter, and Google:

Spice: Synthetic marijuana was declared illegal in New Mexico last year, but it’s still gaining a foothold in Carlsbad


CARLSBAD — For years, spice, potpourri and incense have been used by the general population for cooking and making their homes smell sweeter. But that has changed.

 

Today, those harmless sounding products are finding their way into the hands and bodies of teens and adults in Carlsbad and Eddy County as illicit drugs.

 

Pecos Valley Drug Task Force Commander Carroll Caudill said the use of spice in Eddy County is becoming a problem.

 

Termed as synthetic marijuana, spice is sold under many brand names such as Texas Tea, Mystic Monkey Potpourri, K2 Spice and Route 69. Users smoke it or drink it as a tea to get a high.

 

Sold in glitzy packaging, some dealers charge $20 a gram, about the amount found in an artificial sweetener package such as Sweet’N Low, Caudill said.

 

“I think at this point it is becoming a real big problem,” he said. “In the last six months the amount of spice we have seized has really increased. It’s becoming a big problem, not just in our county. Law enforcement in neighboring counties and cities are telling us the same thing. That’s why we have been diligent in trying to stop the sale of spice. But it is difficult.”

 

Last month the task force reportedly seized more than 4,000 packets of spice from a local business and arrested the owner, who is now facing federal charges.

Caudill said up until last year when Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill making New Mexico the 16th states to ban synthetic marijuana,


law enforcement’s hands were tied. Now that there is a state law — backed by a new federal law signed by President Obama last week — that bans spice and other chemically formed drugs such as bath salts, Caudill said it gives law enforcement agencies such as his the green light to investigate and arrest users and dealers.

 

In signing the bill last year, Martinez, a former top prosecutor in Dona Ana County, said: “These drugs are no less harmful just because they are known by catchy names and are chemically different than the substances they are supposed to replicate. They can pack a powerful punch and can hold devastating consequences for anyone who uses them.”

Caudill sees it the same way. He said before Martinez signed the bill manufacturers would make a slight change in their spice ingredient, and by that one change, it would become legal and frustrate law enforcement.

 

With the new federal law in place, changing part or all of the chemical ingredients still makes spice or bath salt illegal. The federal law could land a dealer in federal court, as seen recently by the alleged dealer arrested in Carlsbad.

How are teens and adults in Eddy County getting the product if it is banned in New Mexico?

“It’s all coming from out of state,” Caudill explained. “In the most recent case we worked, the stuff came out of California and Arizona. Some of the stuff was also from China. It’s easy to buy it online and get it sent in the mail. It is very difficult to police when it comes in the mail.

 

“They are selling it online as incense. But it is not fit for human consumption. The dealers fully know what they are doing. Unlike marijuana, crack and meth, a (drug sniffing) dog doesn’t detect spice. The Postal Service may have a way to detect it, but we don’t.”

Eve Flanigan, Carlsbad Community Anti-Drug/Gang Coalition program manager, who works with teens in Carlsbad and Eddy County, lauded the Drug Task Force’s recent arrest of an alleged local dealer.

“It’s a big problem. We have had teen

s telling us for the past three or four years that they have been using spice and bath salts. There is a strong awareness among teens about the drug, but not among adults,” she said.

 

Flanigan said parents need to be educated on the products.

 

“The Food and Drug Administration is now regulating these drugs that have flown under the radar for so long,” she said. “Spice is similar to marijuana in that people mostly roll it and smoke it. The packaging of spice is glitzy and the marketing and packaging can change in a day. The bad thing is there is no labeling on the package telling the user what the product contains. You don’t know what chemical was mixed in.”

 

According to a publication by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institute on Drug Use, spice products are popular among young people. Of the illicit drugs most used by high school senior, spice products are second only to marijuana.

Easy access and the misperception that spice products are “natural” and therefore harmless, have likely contributed to their popularity. Another selling point is that the chemicals used in spice are not easily detected in standard drug tests.

 

To demonstrate the popularity of spice among teens, Flanigan tells a story about a local juvenile probation officer who told seven of her young probationers that she was going to have them tested for spice at the same time.

 

“She had them together and gave them the opportunity to admit if they had used it before actually having them tested. Every single one of them said they used spice. That was about 18 months ago,” Flanigan said.

 

Consequences from using spice

Caudill said claims made that spice is safe to use scare him.

“I don’t know if we have had anyone in Carlsbad overdose and die from using spice,” Caudill said. “I read recently about a doctor’s research. He said spice acts more like an amphetamine and not (like) marijuana. He said he had one 14-year-old patient that tried to commit suicide by jumping out of a multi-story office window. Parents need to be very vigilant about what their teens are bringing into the house.”

 

Flanigan said she has read many publications about the effects of spice and all reported abusers of spice in need of medical attention as a result of their use of the drug showed symptoms that included a rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations. Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart. In a few cases, the drug has been linked to heart attacks

She said because spice has flown under the radar for so long, it’s really hard to tell how toxic it may be. But public health officials have voiced concern that there may be harmful heavy metal residues in spice mixtures.

 

Caudill said while the law is now clear that spice or any other synthetic drug is now illegal to use, still, policing it is not easy.

 

“It’s one more thing we have to look at,” he added.

Congress Passes the FDA Safety and Innovation Act (Synthetic Drugs)


Carmel, New York—

The Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Putnam County Communities That Care Coalition commends Congress for passing the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, S. 3187, which requires 26 synthetic chemicals, including those commonly found in products marketed as “K2” and “Spice” to be considered Schedule I substances.  Schedule I substances are those with a high potential for abuse; have no medical use in treatment in the United States; and lack an accepted safety for use of the drug.

This federal law would establish regulatory oversight and enforcement on the federal level of these 26 drugs commonly found in synthetic marijuana known as “K2” and “Spice.” The new law also allows the DEA or FDA to temporarily ban the drugs for as long as 36 months. The legislation creates a new definition for “cannabamimetic agents” and sets criteria for the regulation of similar chemical compounds.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “States ought to work to ensure that they have themselves scheduled on a State level all the substances incorporated into the Federal legislation. Although state laws vary, generally state law enforcement officials will not enforce narcotics laws on substances controlled on a Federal level but not a State level.  DEA will naturally focus their limited resources on major distribution networks and cross-state and international trafficking of these substances and their component chemicals.  DEA wants to be as helpful as possible to state authorities and to partner in investigations, but the reality is that they do not have the manpower to enforce these controls on the thousands of individual retail outlets that may sell them across the country. Both Federal and State agencies will have to continue to review and update the list of banned substances as new versions are produced and distributed.  Due to the huge profitability of these substances and the difficulty many prosecutors have in making these cases, ONDCP would encourage state and local agencies to continue to attempt to use their State health/safety/agricultural authorities to remove these substances from store shelves.  Further, civil fines and other penalties continue to be another useful tool to motive retailers to stop selling these substances. The Federal scheduling of the additional synthetic substances is an important step forward, but not the end of the story. All of us must continue to be creative in finding solutions to this continually evolving drug problem.”
Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of herbs and spices applied with a synthetic chemical compound (psychotropic drug JWH- 018 and JWH-073) similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Spice is sold in smoke shops and head shops in a variety of colors/flavors-usually sold in foil packaging or in small glass containers. It is sold as incense and marked “not for human consumption” and is dangerous and addictive.  Nicknames for synthetic marijuana include: Fake weed, spice, K-2 spice, K-2 summit, Black Mamba, Genie, Zohai, Serenity Now, Zombie Zilla. According to the American Association of Poison Control Center’s National Poison Data System (NPDS) the emergency calls doubled between 2010 and 2011 due to synthetic drug use.
If you have concerns or suspect a person of using synthetic cannabinoidstake the  individual to the nearest emergency department. The Upstate New York Poison Control Center can be reached at 1-800-222-1222. If you are someone you know is struggling with alcohol and addiction, please call the National Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies/Putnam for information and referral services at (845) 225-4646

Bill outlawing bath salts, herbal incense ready for President Obama’s signature


CLEVELAND, Ohio — A bill to stamp out the use of sought-after synthetic drugs — such as herbal incense and bath salts — now sits on President Barack Obama’s desk.

The “Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012” passed the Senate Tuesday and bans the drugs at a federal level.

The narcotics, commonly purchased at convenience stores and head shops, have incited savage violence from some users.

A Texas man chewed into his housemate’s dog earlier this month during an herbal incense-induced rampage. Last year in Washington, a man using bath salts shot his wife and suffocated his 5-year-old son before shooting himself.

The drugs have caused some to lose sight of their own humanity, spurring horrific acts across the country, said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a co-sponsor of the bill.

“These synthetic drugs that are on the market have devastated families and ruined the potential of a lot of young people,” said the Cincinnati-area Republican in an interview. “These are not ‘herbal incense’ or ‘bath salts.’ These are really dangerous chemical compounds that can ruin your chances in life.”

Herbal incense is not burned for its aroma. It is a chemically-laced substance resembling marijuana, ingested for the high it delivers. Adverse effects include acute psychosis, hallucinations and violence.

Synthetic bath salts are not meant for the tub even though they resemble the household product. They are crystalline forms of psychoactive chemicals, commonly MDPV and mephedrone. Ingesting bath salts can produce effects similar to herbal incense.

The Plain Dealer reported recently that hospitals and treatment centers in the area and around the country are treating a growing number of people who use the drugs. Portman said he used the story to inform the Senate of this during the passing of the Synthetic Drug Act.

Until the president signs the bill, herbal incense and bath salts will remain legal in many states, but not in Ohio.

The state outlawed the drugs last October, slowing distribution.

Just a few months ago however, the narcotics were rife in convenience stores on East 55th Street on Cleveland’s East Side.

SYNTHETIC-MARIJUANA.JPGAP PhotoSynthetic drugs known as herbal incense.

“Everyone around here used to sell the stuff, including us,” said Cong Nguyen, who works at Rockcliff Market off East 55th.

In April, authorities raided the market and other nearby stores. More than $100,000 in synthetic drugs were seized, according to Cleveland police.

East 55th Street had been a popular destination for people looking to get a synthetic fix. Some even traveled from other counties to get it, said Nguyen.

The reality is, people don’t have to travel at all.

With just a few clicks, synthetic drugs can be purchased on the Internet.

Most online sellers advertise their products as “legal highs.” The offerings have names like “Zombie Killa,” “Mind Trip,” and “Miracle Blow.”

Freshsalts.com describes its “Faux-caine” product as an “extremely potent bath salt blend that causes euphoria, bliss and puts one in ‘the zone.’ ” It also says the product is “not for human consumption.”

The ambiguous labeling of synthetic drugs was key in keeping them legal. Calling them “herbal incense” and “bath salts,” and indicating they are not for human consumption, provided some lee from Food and Drug Administration scrutiny.

Authorities have caught on. The federal bill will block brick-and-mortar and online retailers from selling the volatile and misleading products.

Not only do the familiar names for these drugs contradict their purpose, the contents are widely inconsistent.

“We tested 20 bags of herbal incense that had the same label, and all of them had different ingredients,” said Capt. Brian Heffernan with the Cleveland Police Narcotics Unit. “You don’t ever know what you are getting. You have no idea what you are ingesting.”

Local mother campaigns for national ban on synthetic drugs


While U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green has blocked efforts to pass a law giving law enforcement in America “teeth” to deal with synthetic drugs, a Bowling Green mother, Amy Stillwell, is taking up the torch to see HR 1254 approved by the U.S. Senate and placed on President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

It’s a David vs. Goliath struggle, Stillwell admits, but one to which she is committed.

Stillwell still has nightmares about the time her now 19-year-old daughter, Ashley, took one hit off a synthetic drug and landed in the emergency room last year.

Ashley Stillwell was alive but unable to move for about 31⁄2 hours after smoking 7H. As she lay unable to move at a friend’s house, the people she was with discussed throwing her body into the Barren River. Given her state at the time, if that had happened, she would have likely drowned.

Ashley is a 2011 Warren East High School graduate and now a sophomore at Western Kentucky University studying psychology, sociology and criminology. She is an outspoken critic of synthetic drugs based on her personal experiences.

Several hours after Ashley took the synthetic drug, she remained lethargic, vomited and when she took a shower, she hit her head after she slipped and fell, her mother said.

“All of the synthetics have no quality control,” Amy Stillwell said. “They drug-tested her (Ashley) and nothing showed up.”

Synthetic drugs scare the Bowling Green mother and daughter. They have had speaking engagements all over southcentral Kentucky to warn others about the drugs.

Kentucky legislation approved this year has shut down many avenues for people to buy the drugs locally. However, a federal law could place a nationwide ban on the products and stop overseas manufacturers from sending the drugs into the country.

Obama is on board with the idea.

“Synthetic drugs like Spice, K2 and ‘bath salts’ are a serious threat to the health and safety of young people throughout America,” White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said in an email to the Daily News. “The emergence of these synthetic drugs demands an aggressive response. As a result, the (Drug Enforcement Administration) has used its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily ban the sale of the chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs – and we support Congressional action to make permanent the ban on these dangerous drugs,” the email said.

Sen. Paul maintains that enforcement of drug laws should be a state or local issue, according to an email from Moira Bagley, Paul’s communications director in Washington.

“Paul raised objections to the legislation for a couple reasons. First, law enforcement of most drug laws can and should be local and state issues. As you may know, Kentucky has acted and made these substances illegal already,” Bagley said.

“Second, federal mandatory minimum sentences are harmful to the idea of true justice, and have been shown to be discriminatory against minorities (the Congressional Black Caucus has come out in opposition, too) as well as decrease the need for discretion and judges in general. It’s also worth mentioning that the (Obama) administration has the legal authority to make drugs Schedule 1 narcotics without Congress, as has been done before,” she said.

Paul told the Daily News in February that he opposed synthetic drug legislation because the federal penalties for drug law violations are “disproportionate” to the crime, and federal sentencing requirements don’t allow room for judicial discretion in sentencing.

“The main reason we are opposing this is someone could be kept in prison for 20 years,” Paul said in February. However, Paul also cites in Dec. 14 letter to two other senators the proliferation of Islam in the prison system among his arguments against federal measures to ban the substances.

HR 1254, also known as the Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011, would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act, according to a Sept. 30 letter to U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., chairman of the House subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, from Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice. The letter, Rosholm said, outlines the DOJ’s position on the federal legislation.

HR 1254 has passed the House but not the Senate. S3187, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration measure that the Senate attached to HR 1254 in a parliamentary maneuver, now awaits House passage. When the two legislative bodies can’t agree, bills often end up in conference committees to work out the sticking points.

Van Ingram, director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said the most recent state legislation approved, House Bill 481, targeted two groups of synthetic drugs – synthetic cannibinoids and synthetic cathinones. The first is what might be referred to as a “poor man’s” marijuana, less expensive in price but a very potent high. The second is a plant from Africa that mimics the kick of methamphetamine, complete with hallucinations.

“For now, the bill is doing its intent, but we have to stay vigilant,” Ingram said.

Bowling Green’s State Rep. Jody Richards, a Democrat who co-sponsored the state legislation, said he’s received “fantastic” feedback since the bill was signed into law April 11. “This gives law enforcement another tool,” Richards said. Some of the feedback has come from teens, the manufacturers’ target for the drugs, he said.

“They tell me how potent these drugs are,” Richards said. “These really cause people to do crazy things, want to hurt themselves.”

Richards said the state legislation closes loopholes synthetic drug manufacturers try to jump through.

“I think this is a really good law and the intent is right. This is a big issue in our community,” Richards said.

Tommy Loving, director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force, said a local ordinance approved by Warren County Fiscal Court eventually cut off the sale of synthetic drugs here.

“It appears we have gained a voluntary compliance on selling it in Bowling Green,” Loving said. Synthetic drugs are made from chemicals sprayed on plant material or induced into a crystallized form, he explained.

“Some communities say it (the new state law) is effective,” Ingram said. Two days after the new Kentucky law took effect, a large synthetic drug bust was successfully launched in Hopkinsville, he said.

Amy Stillwell said she is grateful to the Kentucky officials who banded together to get the state legislation approved. “I could never thank them all enough for what they have done for us,” she said. As to Kentucky’s junior U.S. senator Paul, she’s not near as laudatory.

“It (HR 1254) would have passed if Rand Paul hadn’t put a hold on it,” she said.

Synthetic drugs are killing children, she added. “We need a federal law to prevent things from coming in from other countries.”