By: Hector Garcia
July 20, 2012
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.”