A recent spat of cannibalism cases tied to the increased use of synthetic drugs led the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on a nationwide sting to remove the “designer” chemicals from the marketplace. The new “designer” drugs are marketed for America’s youth as an alternative to traditional illegal drugs like cocaine or crystal meth. Operation Log Jam nabbed more than 90 individuals related to the synthetic drug business, collected five million packets of the “designer” drugs and seized $36 million in cash nationwide.
DEA agents said five million packets of synthetic cannabinoids (K2, Spice, incense or plant food) and the products required to produce nearly 14 million more, as well as 167,000 packets of synthetic cathinones (bath salts), and the products to produce an additional 392,000 were seized throughout the 100 city coordinated DEA sting.
“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.
The recent cannibalistic attack in Florida, where a man literally ate the face off a homeless person, garnered nationwide attention and prompted legislative action as well as the nationwide DEA sting.
“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 James Chaparro, Acting Director of ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “ICE is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to bring this industry to its knees.”
The DEA also depended on the U.S. Post Office to report and curtail suspicious packages passing through the mail system. “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.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have detected an increase in the sales of synthetic drugs. Many of the designer drugs use, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) and are marketed as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” or “Bliss.” Agents explain that these drugs attempt to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and methamphetamine. However, the side effects of synthetic drugs can be significantly worse and include, impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. Researchers have not concluded the long-term physical and psychological effects of prolonged use because the drugs are new to the marketplace.
Experts say the new drugs have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they mistakenly believe the chemicals can bypass drug-testing protocols that have been set up by employers and government agencies to protect public safety.
Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have also grown in popularity because they are easily obtained, however it’s the DEA’s contention that these particular products are more potent and dangerous than “street” marijuana. “These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana,” they said. “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.”
Agents want users to know that these dangerous chemicals do not have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The DEA 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.), by temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. In a rare bipartisan effort, Congress acted to permanently place the 26 substances on the Schedule I of the CSA list.
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.
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 Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as countless 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.
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