Sep 232011

By Linda Kor–

“Spice” and “bath salts” are not words you would normally associate with dangerous drugs, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) wants it to stay that way. The DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to put a halt to the possession and use of certain chemicals used in the manufacturing of some of the popular designer drugs available to the public that fall under common household names.

Smoke shops, gas stations, convenience stores and online retailers providing drugs labeled as “K2” and/or “spice,” were banned from selling the product containing certain chemical compounds in February of this year by Governor Jan Brewer, but banning the synthetic marijuana did not stop drug makers from providing a potentially dangerous high in other retail products.

A product labeled “bath salts” is a crystallized chemical mix that holds no actual value as a bath salt, but is snorted, ingested or smoked for a potentially dangerous high. The product has been available through retailers but that convenience will end as of Oct. 1 when certain chemicals used in the manufacturing of these drugs will be banned by the DEA for at least one year. The ban will allow the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services time to study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.

According to the DEA, there has been a growing use of synthetic stimulants sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of chemicals perceived as mimics of cocaine, LSD, MDMA and/or methamphetamine. The DEA notes that the products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, and abuse of the drugs have been linked to death, suicide, homicide, self-inflicted wounds and child endangerment.

Although this latest effort may halt one line of production, Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon believes the battle is far from over.

“Whenever there is a ban on a product or chemical, the manufacturers just go and change the chemical composition,” stated Carlyon. “We had an MCAT (Major Crimes Apprehension Team) unit purchase some spice at a convenience store and brought it in for analysis. Luckily they didn’t arrest the store owner, because it didn’t have the chemical makeup that has been outlawed.”

Carlyon is working with county attorneys across the state to create a statute that can keep up with the ever-changing chemical variations. “If the legislature creates a ban, then it takes one year to enter into law. We’re always one step behind,” he noted.

The county attorney hopes work with Department of Health officials, who meet regularly to discuss how to impose statutes that can be immediately implemented, then when legislators meet they can either remove the statute or leave it in.

If a person is arrested and convicted for using, possessing or selling one of the banned combinations of drugs, they could face dangerous drug charges and be sentenced to probation for a first offense, and up to 10 years in prison for two or more offenses.

In the last six months the DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding products containing one or more of these chemicals. The DEA reports that 33 states have already taken action to control or ban these or other synthetic stimulants.

Photo courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Agency

This designer drug labeled “Aurora Bath Salts” is one of numerous drugs containing chemicals slated to be banned by the Drug Enforcement Agency as of Oct. 1.