Federal Law Banning Synthetic Drugs May Not Be Effective, Some Experts Say

A federal law signed by President Obama this week that bans synthetic drugs may not be effective in reducing use of the products, several experts tell NPR.

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 bans synthetic marijuana, “bath salts” and other synthetic drugs. Dozens of states and local governments already have banned these drugs. Often marketed as legal substances, synthetic drugs are sold in small pouches or packets over the Internet, in tobacco and smoke shops, drug paraphernalia shops, gas stations, and convenience stores. Use of synthetic drugs has been blamed for hundreds of emergency room visits, and some deaths, NPR notes.

Christine Stork, Clinical Director of the Upstate New York Poison Control Center, said synthetic marijuana can be 20 times as potent as real marijuana. She adds it is difficult to predict the strength of any one brand or packet, since there is no regulation or oversight of the production of these products.

“Anybody with a working knowledge of chemistry, or that can follow a simple set of directions, can obtain and mix these substances and create these compounds,” says James Burns, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in upstate New York. He noted that even though many states have banned some chemical compounds used to make synthetic marijuana, drug makers can manipulate the molecular structure to produce legal compounds that are similar to the ones that have been outlawed.

Anthony Tambasco, a forensic scientist in Mansfield, Ohio, says despite the new federal law, new compounds will continue to be created. He notes that as soon as Ohio outlawed some chemical compounds used to make synthetic marijuana, he started to see new ones in local stores. He expects drug makers will quickly find ways around the federal law as well. “They already are. They’re already out in front of it. They’re already on their next batch,” he said.

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    private citizen

    August 19, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    i think people should have the right to do this if they want to and ive never understood why people go to the hospital over these. they are not that strong. people just freak out and think they are going to die when they are just really high. stop banning everything just because certain people dont like it. this is america. if you want rights taken away go live in china and get out of america.

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    August 6, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    My son has been hospitalized 3 times due to the effects of him using synthetic marijuana. He now has severe depression with pshycotic features, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, axiety, insomnia and tremors. The doctors say there is not enough research on this poison to know how long he will experience these side effects. They say he may snap out of it within months or may have to live with it for the rest of his life. It has changed him dramatically. He has his good days and he has his bad days. The bad days are very bad and I feel so helpless. I listen to him and comfort him during his panic attacks. I am glad to say that I believe he is done using synthetic marijuana after this last hospitalization but I am not immune to the fact that relapse could be just around the corner. This product is still being sold in our area stores and I am currently fighting this and raising awareness to other parents that may be as ignorant as I was to this deadly drug. The local police say they have done all they can do and what these store owners are now selling is the legal form of the drug. Legal still does not make it safe. All these basement chemist do is change the chemical compounds to skirt the current laws. I will not accept that the police cannot do anything further on this matter and I am taking matters in my own hands. We are currently organizing a picket line to raise awareness to the public in our area. I also filed a complaint with the Consumer Product Safety Commission for mislabling of the product. Even though it says “Not for human consumption” there are no ingredients listed, no manufacture contact information, no “how to use” instructions, no instructions on what to do incase of ingestion. It is my ultimate goal to hold these so called “legal” drug dealers responsible for what they are selling to our kids. When I first began my research on this drug I found this website tothemaximus.org very helpful and I read the blog several times a day. Educate yourself and keep the lines of communication open with your children. Prayers needed! <3

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    Liz Nelson

    July 12, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Then if a federal law isn’t going to reduce use, then what will? I don’t think any policy is effective all by itself, but the awareness and education that accompanies the policy will be synergistic.

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