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Emergency ban extended on chemicals used in drugs that mimic pot

By Carol Cratty, CNN
updated 8:41 PM EST, Wed February 29, 2012
 The DEA extended another six months its ban on five chemicals used to make synthetic drugs such as Spice.
The DEA extended another six months its ban on five chemicals used to make synthetic drugs such as Spice.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration is extending its ban for six months
  • The one-year ban on the chemicals was set to expire soon
  • Drugs marketed as herbal incense under such names as K2, Blaze, Spice, Red X Dawn
  • Users of these synthetic drugs might have convulsions, vomiting, disorientation

Washington (CNN) -- The Drug Enforcement Administration is extending for another six months its emergency ban on five chemicals used to make synthetic drugs such as Spice, the DEA announced on Wednesday.

The DEA already had banned the substances for a year, but with that period soon to expire, the DEA announced it will file a notice in the Federal Register on Thursday that will mean the chemicals will continue to be illegal.

The substances used to make the fake pot products are: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497 (that's all one chemical CP-47,497) and cannabicyclohexanol. The names sound like an alphabetical and numerical soup. But the drugs are marketed as herbal incense under such names as K2, Blaze, Spice and Red X Dawn and have been popular with teenagers and young adults.

The DEA says the products are made of plant material coated with chemicals that claim to mimic THC, the key ingredient in marijuana.

The DEA's emergency action means the chemicals are designated as Schedule 1 substances, the most restrictive category of drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.

"Schedule 1 substances are reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision," according to a DEA press release.

Poison control centers reported about 13,000 calls about problems with synthetic drugs in 2011, Deborah Carr of the American Association of Poison Control Centers said earlier this month. "Sixty percent of the cases involved patients under the age of 25," said Carr.

The poison centers and emergency room doctors say users of these synthetic drugs might have symptoms as convulsions, elevated heart rates, vomiting and disorientation. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said the chemicals "present an imminent danger to public safety."

The DEA's emergency powers to restrict the drugs cannot be extended more than 18 months, but the Department of Health and Human Services can take action to make the ban permanent.

DEA officials also would like to see Congress pass legislation to outlaw synthetic drugs. The House passed a bill but the Senate has not followed suit.

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