DEA jams synthetic marijuana and “bath salts” industry
Jul28

DEA jams synthetic marijuana and “bath salts” industry

With all the discord in Washington these days, it’s rare to see several US governmental organizations working together to address a significant public health problem. This week, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) mobilized Operation Log Jam, an unusual and highly-coordinated action with six other federal agencies aimed to shut down the synthetic designer drug industry in 109 US cities. The products targeted were of two broad classes: 1) synthetic marijuana “incense” products comprised of naphthoylindole cannabimimetic compounds first synthesized by John W. Huffman’s lab at Clemson in the mid-1990s, and 2) “bath salts” or “plant food” products containing the stimulant/empathogen mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) or the stimulant MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone). This compilation of posts on synthetic marijuana and, to a lesser extent, “bath salts” serves as a good primer on the subject. These products were sold widely on the internet, headshops, and convenience stores and were associated with 13,000 poison control calls last year, 60% of which were in individuals under 25. Disturbing acute and chronic side effects have been reported by users that include severe anxiety and paranoia, unnerving hallucinations, and even heart attacks. Several specific compounds were criminalized by an emergency DEA action and numerous state and local laws over the last two years. Still, products continued to be available containing compounds not explicitly criminalized, with marketers claiming legal status. Commenters here and elsewhere have argued that this industry would go away if marijuana would simply be decriminalized in the US. Earlier this week, TIME Healthland writer Maia Szalavitz made a good argument for this (or at least FDA regulation of recreational drugs) in the context of Operation Log Jam. Comprehensive action I find two aspects of this initiative quite unique since I began covering the synthetic formerly-legal highs phenomenon. First, Operation Log Jam aimed to address every level of the synthetic designer drug industry: manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. From the DEA press release: As of today [26 July], more than 4.8 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids (ex. K2, Spice) and the products to produce nearly 13.6 million more, as well as 167,000 packets of synthetic cathinones (ex. bath salts), and the products to produce an additional 392,000 were seized. In addition, $36 million was also seized in the raids. Among the federal agencies involved was the US Postal Service since the internet-marketed products are sometimes shipped via regular mail. US Customs and Border Protection acted to target the flow of compounds synthesized non-domestically into the country. And, of course, the IRS was involved to, “trace the path of illicit drug proceeds by identifying the financial linkages among the various co-conspirators,” as indicated by Richard Weber, Chief, IRS Criminal...

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NC legislators aim to clean up “bath salt” omission
Feb19

NC legislators aim to clean up “bath salt” omission

Earlier this week, I wrote about on the comprehensive chemistry text in two North Carolina state bills – H12/S9 and H13/S7 – to criminalize distribution, sales, and possession of compounds present in a variety of legal-high, designer drug products. One bill specifically addressed compounds present in synthetic marijuana compounds whose extensive list included those eponymous JWH compounds synthesized in the laboratory of Clemson University Professor Emeritus, John W. Huffman (featured here). The other bill addressed mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone; 4-MMC) and other structural analogs of this amphetamine and cathinone derivative. However, I noted my surprise at the time at the omission of a compound more commonly associated with so-called bath salt products: MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone. My neuroscience blogging colleague DrugMonkey also remarked to me of his surprise since most other states deal with MDPV in the same legislation with mephedrone/4-MMC because of their structural similarity. But on Thursday I was tipped off by WRAL-TV Capitol News Bureau Director, Laura Leslie, that a separate bill, Senate Bill 77 (S77), was just filed by State Senator Stan Bingham (R, NC-33) that specifically proposes to criminalize MDPV. Unlike the earlier bills, this one does not appear to currently have a House counterpart so I’m unclear as to how this will be dealt with in the other body. The bill now goes to judiciary committee. The “bath salt” phenomenon began to grab US media attention in late 2010 as state poison control centers began to receive reports of emergency room visits by people using legal high products that were not synthetic marijuana. According to Mark Ryan, Louisiana Poison Control Center Director, these products are sold under such names as Cloud 9, Ivory Wave, Ocean, Charge Plus, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove and White Dove. These currently skirt drug laws by claiming “not for human consumption” or as bath salts, plant food, or insect repellent. As with synthetic marijuana products, an advantage of these drugs is that they can’t be detected by the most common urinary drug screens such as the SAMHSA 5 (Quest Diagnostics example here). These products providing those on probation or otherwise subject to mandatory drug testing with a psychoactive alternative to amphetamines or Ecstasy. TIME Healthland writer, Maia Szalavitz, remarked to me recently of her concern about kids hearing stories about “bath salts” and then trying to smoke Mom’s Calgon. Not a good idea. Trying to do so may indeed, “take me away.” From a neuropharmacology perspective, even less data are available on MDPV than for mephedrone. MDPV is the 3,4-methylenedioxy derivative of pyrovalerone, a compound first synthesized by Heffe in 1964 and investigated in the 1970s in Europe as...

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