Bi-partisan Legislation Aims to Ban Numerous Chemicals in Synthetic Drugs
Synthetic drugs continue to plague the Syracuse area, and Senator Chuck Schumer is taking another stab at trying to help federal drug agents stay ahead of the changing composition of the substances in Syracuse. Senator Schumer says Syracuse is seen as the upstate epicenter of the problem. He says synthetic compounds continue to appear on store shelves as a result of the market's ability to find loopholes in the law.
"Surprisingly, too many of them, even some that are deadly, are legal," Schumer said. "Why are they legal? They are legal because the drug runners find ways ahead of the law, and China imports chemicals that are deadly, but not illegal."
His legislation aims to ban 22 chemicals, half of which are synthetic cannabinoids, or marijuana substitutes known as K-2, or spice. Onondaga County Health Commissioner Doctor Indu Gupta says it is important to educate the community on the risks of what may appear to be harmless.
"These are not illegal at this point," Gupta said. "These are out there in your stores. So don't think these are very appealing looking packets as you may have seen. These are dangerous things."
Gupta says there are serious physical and mental health consequences, ranging from increased heart rate and respiratory failure to paranoia and other bizarre behavior. However, Administrative Director of the Upstate Poison Control Center Michele Caliva says like the substances, the symptoms aren't always the same.
"We had the oddest phenomenon happen, though," Caliva said. "About half of them came in with respiratory depression and severe bradycardia, or low heart rate. We were stumped, because if you asked them what they took, they all said Spike and Spice. So they were buying the same product, but they were having completely different symptoms."
Caliva says that illustrates the challenges of treating certain patients. Senator Schumer hopes Congress will return to pass this legislation next month to provide relief to law enforcement, and families.
Senator Schumer was joined by experts, law enforcement, and elected officials to discuss the legal and lethal synthetic drugs circulating around Central New York.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
"I have held some of the parents in my arms who have lost loved ones to these types of drugs or have had their kids be addicted, and are working on the long, hard road back away from addiction."