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Chemists one step ahead of lawmakers in race to ban chemicals in synthetic drugs

State lawmakers in New Jersey and around the country as well as federal agencies are all trying to figure out how to deal with the increasing use of unregulated synthetic drugs. A recent AP investigative study looked into how reports of bad reactions to the drug to poison control centers around the country are increasing, despite the efforts to ban the drugs. A DEA employee told the AP that the agency has never dealt before with a drug product that is just out on the shelves.

The fact that the fake pot and fake cocaine products are just sitting on the shelves of head shops and convenience stores is a reason why people are buying them; users assume they are safe for use since they are in stores. They are labeled as "not for human consumption" but they are sold as legal alternatives to illegal drugs that will not show up on drug tests. The DEA warns, however, that the products are unregulated and there is no way of knowing how strong the products are or how they will affect a user.

As quickly as lawmakers and federal agencies ban the chemicals in the products, manufacturers alter the chemical compounds slightly so they are no longer technically illegal to sell, distribute or possess. The DEA warns that chemicals that mimic illegal substances are illegal under federal law as "analogue" drugs. It is difficult to prosecute people for selling or distributing these analogue substances, though, and the DEA is currently studying 50 such substances that have recently cropped up.


AP IMPACT: Synthetic drugs send thousands to the ER (Bloomberg Businessweek)

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