Entries in Synthetic Drugs (3)


DEA Makes 90 Arrests in War on Synthetic Drugs

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Less than a month after President Obama banned the sale, production, and possession of the synthetic drugs known as bath salts, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced Thursday that it has made 90 arrests in a nationwide “synthetic drug takedown.”

Law enforcement agents also seized $36 million in cash and 19 million packets of synthetic drugs, including bath salts (a powder hallucinogen) and spice (also known as fake marijuana). The DEA collaborated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and several other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in a project called Operation Log Jam to affect the arrests.

“This enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers,” said DEA administrator Michele Leonhart.

The largest number of arrests were in Albuquerque, but the most significant synthetic drug activity was in Tampa, DEA spokeswoman Barbara Cerrano told ABC News. Part of Operation Log Jam included serving search warrants to gather evidence in addition to the arrests, she said.

“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 James Chaparro, the Acting Director of ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations. “ICE is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to bring this industry to its knees.”

The synthetic marijuana starts as a powder that’s illegally imported from overseas and is mixed with acetone and plant material before it can be packaged and sold, then used and abused, Cerrano said.

The bath salts are also imported as a powder and sold at head shops under names like “Ivory Wave” and “Bliss,” according to the DEA.

The difference between a synthetic drug and any other drug is that a synthetic drug is made in a lab, said Scott Basinger, chairman of the Substance Abuse Committee at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Although people have used natural drugs by smoking marijuana or chewing cocaine leaves going back thousands of years, synthetic drugs are only 30 or 40 years old, and they probably started with LSD, he said.

“There’s a certain sense that new synthetics that are common on the market are more dangerous because we don’t have the background on how to handle them,” Basinger told ABC News. “For a cocaine overdose or an opioid overdose, we know exactly what to do with them in the ER.”

The drugs have been linked to bizarre behavior including an instance in which a Texas man allegedly attacked, killed and then ate his friend’s dog while high on synthetic marijuana.

Sasha McLean, who heads a school for adolescents recovering from substance abuse, told ABC News there’s been more synthetic drug use in the last two years where she lives in Houston, even among the homeless population. She said she’s seen firsthand what bath salts can do to teens and adults and called it “horribly dangerous.”

“It literally looked like he’d lost his mind,” she said of a 16-year-old who suffered from auditory and visual hallucinations. “He was yelling and screaming at things that didn’t exist, and it was very, very scary.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Man Faces Animal Cruelty Charge for Eating Dog While High

McLennan County Sheriff's Department(WACO, Texas) -- A Texas man faces a felony charge after he allegedly bit, killed and ate a housemate's pet dog while high on the synthetic drug "spice."

The alleged attack is the latest in the series of violent and bizarre incidents linked to spice, which mimics the effects of marijuana, and bath salts, which mimics cocaine.

Michael Daniel, 22, allegedly smoked spice in his Waco, Texas, home before he assaulted his housemates and then ran out of the house into his yard, where he began crawling around on his hands and knees.  He barked and growled at a neighbor and chased him back into his home.

Daniel then allegedly took his housemate's dog, a medium-sized spaniel mix, out onto the house's porch.  He allegedly beat and strangled the dog, according to Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton, and then began chewing "hunks of flesh" from the animal.

Daniel's housemates called police and requested emergency assistance, saying Daniel was "going crazy."  Officers arrived at the house to find Daniel sitting on the porch with "blood and fur around his mouth" and with the dead dog lying in his lap, Swanton said.

Daniel, who police say told his housemates he was "on a bad trip" just before the alleged rampage on June 14, was charged on Monday with cruelty to a non-livestock animal.

The incident in Waco follows a series of bizarre attacks by people allegedly high on synthetic drugs, including a Glendale, Calif., man striking a 77-year-old woman with a shovel last week, and a man in Milton, Fla., biting into the hood of a police cruiser in February.

Spice and related products have often been sold as incense in packaging that says the contents are not to be ingested, but authorities say they are frequently used by consumers to mimic the effects of marijuana and other drugs.

In a 20/20 investigation that aired in 2011, ABC News found that spice and bath salts were being sold to teenagers across the country with little to no oversight, and many of those young users were showing up at drug treatment centers.

"They think they're dying," Louisiana Poison Control Center Director Dr. Mark Ryan told ABC News.  "They have extreme paranoia.  They're having hallucinations.  They see things, they hear things, monsters, demons, aliens."

Since then, the government has fought to block the sale and usage of synthetic drugs.

Last December, the House of Representatives voted to add 41 chemical compounds used to make spice and bath salts to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to manufacture or dispense.

Last week, a similar bill passed the Senate that would criminalize 26 of those compounds, stripping off 15 of the 17 compounds that are used to make bath salts.

And according to authorities, manufacturers of synthetic drugs are constantly trying to develop new compounds that don't fall under the umbrella banned by state or federal law, making drugs particularly dangerous for users who don't know what they are going to get.

"When people use this, they may use it one time and the next time it's a totally different chemical substance," Swanton said.

According to Dr. Ryan, it's that lack of "quality control" that makes the drugs particularly risky, since some batches might affect the brain's chemistry at a more dangerous level.

"When someone buys these products, they don't know exactly what ingredient they may be getting and they don't know the amount of the substance that's in there," Ryan said.  "So somebody may get one batch and get five mg, someone may buy the product around the corner and get 2,000 mg."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teens Purchase 'Legal Pot,' Despite Potentially Deadly Side Effects

Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Synthetic drugs that lawmakers and law enforcement officers say are potentially deadly are readily available to teenagers both online and in retail stores -- despite a push to ban what high school kids call "legal pot," an ABC News investigation found.

After 18-year-old David Rozga suddenly took his own life with a rifle last year soon after graduating high school, his parents were convinced the synthetic drugs played a major part.

"He just continued to become agitated -- indicating that he felt like he was in hell," David's father Mike Rozga said.  His girlfriend at the time said it was clear David was under the influence of something.

"David did not do this intentionally," girlfriend Carrie Jackson told ABC News.  "He was like in an altered state and, you know, he would never do this or hurt us or hurt anyone else or hurt himself."

Mike Rozga said before his death his son went to a local mall and legally purchased a K2, a product like several others meant to mimic the effect of marijuana.  An ABC News investigation found these products available on-line and at stores for anywhere from $15 to $85.

Retailers say they have their own standards and most won't sell to anyone under 18.  But ABC News hidden cameras caught two retailers -- one in New York City and one in Los Angeles -- selling Spice to a 14 and 16-year-old, respectively, without ever asking for ID.

Rozga's death has prompted lawmakers to push for a ban on the synthetic drugs, which poison control centers say have spurred a rash of emergencies.  Since 2010 alone, there have been 4,000 calls into poison control relating to the drugs and Missouri Poison Control Center Director Anthony Scalzo said the innocuous-sounding names belie sometimes devastating side effects.

Scalzo said the side effects include heart rate stimulation to exaggerated levels, extreme blood pressure elevation, agitation, paranoia, and hallucinations. "Beyond the acute effects [there] are psychiatric effects that have led individuals to harm themselves, sometimes fatally, and exhibit extreme paranoia and delusions not unlike schizophrenia or other psychoses," said Scalzo.

But retail store trade groups oppose the ban and say that as long as the products are legal, there is no reason not to sell it.

"A ban is dangerous," said Dan Francis of the Retail Compliance Association.  "Because it sends it underground.  And I'd like to ask the government what is wrong with euphoria and who gave them the right to regulate it?"

However, Detective Sergeant Brian Sher, who investigated David Rozga's death, places the blame for the boy's death directly on K2.  "I want people to know that," said Sher.  "There are nay-sayers, but I can say definitively there's just nothing in the investigation to show that.  Given what we know about K2 and Spice, David's anxiety, his feeling like he was in hell, has happened in many other cases."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio