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Federal agents arrest 'designer drug' makers in nationwide raids

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:44 PM EDT, Thu July 26, 2012
 The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested more than 90 people in a sweeping synthetic drug takedown Thursday.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested more than 90 people in a sweeping synthetic drug takedown Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Federal task force arrest dozens of people across the United States
  • DEA says they were making and selling illegal synthetic drugs including fake pot, bath salts
  • ICE official: This is a "huge blow" to criminal organizations that deal the drugs
  • Bath salts aren't like ones you use in the tub, more akin to cocaine

(CNN) -- More than 90 people in 30 states were arrested Thursday as federal agents cracked down on the designer synthetic drug industry, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced.

Almost 5 million packets of fake pot and nearly 167,000 packages of "bath salts" were seized as well as $36 million, DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said.

Earlier this month President Obama signed a law banning the sale of 31 compounds used in synthetic drugs, but the synthetic drug makers try to skirt the legislation and previous laws by changing the chemical composition.

The DEA said it used the authority provided by the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act. which it said "specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs."

Previously on CNN.com: Zombie-like attacker used pot, not 'bath salts'

"Although tremendous progress has been made in legislating and scheduling these dangerous substances, this enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers," Leonhart said.

Members of the DEA, FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and FDA took part in what was dubbed "Operation Log Jam."

"Today, we struck a huge blow to the synthetic drug industry,"James Chaparro, the acting director of ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations, said. "The criminal organizations behind the importation, distribution and selling of these synthetic drugs have scant regard for human life in their reckless pursuit of illicit profits."

Leonhart said agents also seized the material to make more than 13.5 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids and 392,000 packets of bath salts.

Not the same substance used to scent your bathwater, bath salts contain amphetamine-like chemicals such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone and are sold as "cocaine substitutes" or "synthetic LSD." Its effects include paranoia, hallucinations, convulsions and psychotic episodes.

One former addict told CNN in June that he overdosed on bath salts once and "I just felt all kinds of crazy."

Freddy Sharp, now 27, said, "It felt so evil. It felt like the darkest, evilest thing imaginable."

According to the DEA, the number of calls to poison centers related to synthetic drugs soared from about 3,200 in 2010 to more than 13,000 last year.

More from CNN Justice.com:

Attorneys: Sandusky voice mails released, shower abuse victim to sue

Five arrested, accused of terrorizing Jewish camp in Pennsylvania

Calm returns after protests rock Los Angeles suburb

Florida puppeteer accused in child porn case

CNN's Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.

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