By Ferdous Al-Faruque - 05/07/14 04:45 PM EDT
DEA crackdown targets synthetic drugs
The Drug Enforcement Agency on Wednesday said a nationwide crackdown this year on the distribution of illegal synthetic drugs had resulted in 150 arrests and the seizure of over $20 million in cash and assets.
The agency, joined by other federal, state and local law enforcement, has confiscated hundreds of thousands of synthetic drugs and several hundred kilograms of raw materials in the second phase of the operation, dubbed Project Synergy.
The operations took place across 29 states and involved more than 45 DEA offices.
DEA officials said the public is often unaware of the danger from synthetic drugs, unlike traditional narcotics, because they are often marketed as other products and sold through retail outlets or the Internet.
“Communities, families, and individuals across the United States have experienced the scourge of designer synthetic drugs, which are often marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner, or plant food,” said the agency.
But those who abuse synthetic drugs often suffer severe medical reactions leading to hospitalization and in many cases death.
In the past five years the agency says it has discovered between 200 to 300 new designer drugs, most of which are coming from China.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, welcomed Wednesday’s news as another important step to prevent access to illegal drugs.
“Anything that’s outlawed shouldn’t be for sale at the local convenience store,” he said. “Teenagers who might think a product is safe because it’s sold in the United States are mistaken.”
According to the DEA the first phase of Project Synergy which began December 2012, led to 227 arrests in 35 states and five countries. During that period the agency also seized more than $60 million in cash and assets.