By MARLA BAHLOUL
In a process described as easy as purchasing a book through Amazon or downloading an album through iTunes, more and more Web users are using the Internet to buy synthetic drugs, a state senator said Tuesday.
Synthetic drugs are being manufactured at alarming rates by chemists seeking to create a “veneer of legality,” Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) said as proposed legislation that would ban 16 of the most sought-out chemicals, reclassifying them as controlled substances.
Klein and Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show, said the synthetic drugs produce effects created by marijuana, amphetamines, and lysergic acid diethylamide, or more commonly, LSD.
“The only safe thing about these drugs is that you can purchase them legally,” said Oz, director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Klein’s legislation, Senate Bill 7009, would make the possession of these synthetics prosecutable as Schedule I substances, similarly to the prosecution for carrying cocaine or heroin.
The bill would lead the nation’s “brand new war on drugs,” making the state of New York the first to pass legislation aimed at targeting these specific substances, Klein said.
A program Oz did last November about the deaths of two partygoers in Oklahoma who ingested the chemical dubbed Bromo-DragonFLY prompted Klein’s interest in the topic.
Previous legislation allowed chemists and Web distributors to work around a law aimed at curbing synthetic drugs.
The Federal Analog Act of 1986 was created after what became known as the first “designer drug disaster” in the United States in 1982, when seven individuals, injected with a heroin substitute, came down with Parkinson’s Disease-like symptoms.
In order to be considered a controlled substance, the drug must resemble the chemical structure of an already-banned substance. And, according to existing law, the synthetic drug is only subject to legal ban if “the substance is not intended for human consumption.”
So despite the attractive foil packaging and catchy names of emerging synthetic drugs like “Charly Sheen” or “Pink Panthers,” as long as they are marketed with a “not for human consumption” label, they are considered research chemicals.
Sites like www.erowid.org and www.legalhighsforum.com allow users to suggest dosages and describe experiences, though they remain barred from disclosing where they have purchased their drugs to avoid scrutiny.
“We need to warn parents that it is no longer marijuana or crack/cocaine that our children are using,” Klein said. “They are told how to mix, hide and use [the synthetic drugs.]”
State authorities reported 144 cases of known synthetic drug use in New York State this year through March 20. These include cases involving hallucinogenic amphetamines and synthetic marijuana. The agency reported one death resulting from a hallucinogenic amphetamine last year.
Klein’s staff described the process of purchasing these drugs as a standard “Internet billing and delivery” procedure, shipped through FedEx. Once distributed by weight, substances like “Charly Sheen” and others are now distributed as individual dosages ranging in price between $8 and $20.
“We can make this a national issue,” Klein said. “And New York can lead the way.”