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April 18, 2012

Problems Emerge Surrounding New Synthetic Drugs

Pack of synthetic drugs

A new line of synthetic drugs, sold under labels such as ‘bath salts’ and ‘Molly’s Plant Food,’ have been found to be the cause of countless deaths in the United States.  The new drug is unrelated to legitimate bath salts sold in specialty stores.  These bath salts are synthetic forms of cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine and are currently legal in many places.  Bath salts are sold online and at local convenience and tobacco stores and cost roughly $40.  A major concern is expressed by health professionals who consider these synthetics to be worse than most illegal drugs, with effects including: increased heart rate, paranoia, anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, muscle weakness, and a nearly instant addiction (estimated to be 150 times more addictive than the controlled substance they mimic).  Moreover, bath salts are responsible for an estimated three to four emergency room visits a day.  In Tennessee, people have committed violent crimes, ranging from self-mutilation to arson to homicide based on these drugs.  Most of the products are shipped from overseas, with almost every package being different and containing a different compound, making the drug extremely difficult to trace.

Despite a Tennessee law passed last year, which made it illegal to produce, sell or posses a product containing any of the six listed chemical combinations of synthetic derivatives of the drug, manufacturers have found ways to avoid prosecution.  By making changes to the ingredients and finding new methods to produce the drugs, synthetic drugs continue to be produced and distributed across the U.S.  However, the creation of a blanket legislation to outlaw all synthetic drugs in an attempt to stay ahead of manufacturers also presents problems.  This is what occurred earlier this year when a local Gallatin business owner sued the city, claiming the definitions of the substances considered illegal were unconstitutionally vague and that the law was overbroad.  Likewise, similar lawsuits are being brought in Sullivan County and the cities of Kingsport and Bristol.  Currently, there are four main house bills in Tennessee, concerning synthetic drugs.  They are: HB 2218, HB 2286 (to take effect July 1, 2012), HB 2645 (to take effect July 1, 2012) & HB 3175 (passed April 16, 2012; Senate version not passed yet).  For more information on synthetic drug laws and other recent developments, visit


City legal staff looking into synthetic drug ban

City moves to repeal synthetic drug ordinance

Synthetic drug bills advance in Tennessee House

Posted By: Eston Whiteside