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Editorial: New strategies on synthetic drugs much needed

Nov. 16, 2012 @ 12:22 AM

It is not easy to catch dealers selling illicit drugs on the black market.

Trying to limit the use of pain pills to those who actually have a prescription and legitimate need is a challenge, too.

But the sale of "synthetic drugs" seems like it should be easier to stop.

After all, these dangerous concoctions are typically sold over the counter in shiny wrappers like candy bars. It is not hard to see what is going on, but crafting the laws to help states shut down these sales has proven difficult.

In most cases, these chemicals are marketed as bath salts, herbal incense or some other product, marketed under names such as "Ninja," "Bizarro" or "Vanilla Sky," or even with Disney characters, The Associated Press reported this week.

However, they are formulated to mimic the effects of marijuana, cocaine or meth.

About 30 states, including West Virginia and Ohio, have passed laws outlawing synthetic drugs, and this summer President Obama signed federal legislation that included provisions to ban ingredients such as 2C-E, a synthetic hallucinogen often found in these products.

But crafty chemists continue to quickly alter the compounds, hoping to stay one step ahead of the law. So, states are trying new approaches.

This week, the Ohio Attorney General's office proposed a ban to adding compounds to these drugs to skirt the law.

"We end this cat-and-mouse game of trying to add different compounds onto different parts of the chemical, and we give law enforcement the tools they need to fight this," said Matt Donahue, a special prosecutor with the attorney general's office.

In West Virginia, the Attorney General's office filed suit against a major supplier of synthetic drugs, charging the company was deceiving consumers by claiming the products were legal or harmless.

"Cutting off the supply of these illicit substances at the source is central to ending this debilitating menace," Attorney General Darrell McGraw said in a statement this summer.

Synthetic drugs already have been shown to be just as dangerous as the real thing -- and the effects can be even more unpredictable, especially with the ever-changing formulations. One Dayton, Ohio, emergency room doctor told the AP that on bath salts some patients become violent and require hospital security to control.

We applaud the new strategies aimed at keeping these drugs out of circulation.

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