United Nations Says Synthetic Drugs Reaching 'Unprecedented Expansion'

By McCarton Ackerman 05/23/14

A huge wave of synthetic drugs has washed over some 90 countries world wide, as synthetics have supplanted cocaine and heroin as drugs of choice.

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A new report from the United Nations confirms that synthetic drugs have reached “unprecedented expansion,” with legal highs now being used more often than heroin and cocaine.

Although 350 new psychoactive substances and other legal highs were found in 90 countries by the end of last year, none of them are under any form of international control. Many of these substances, like the plant-based psychoactive drug known as khat, are being trafficked into other continents. The U.S. has also seen a huge increase in the number of dismantled meth labs being discovered.

However, the federal government is doing its best to try and stop the epidemic. Synthetic marijuana, commonly known as Spice or K2, was recently classified as a Schedule I drug. Hundreds of arrest warrants have also been issued across 25 states for other synthetic drugs including Molly and bath salts. There has also been an active effort towards stamping out meth trafficking, with the number of meth seizures rising from 10,000 in 2007 to 60,000 in 2012.

Despite these efforts, however, roughly five new drug compounds enter the market every month. And because many of these synthetic drugs are either sprayed with chemicals or contain unknown substances, officials have raised the alarm over a potentially major health crisis.

Earlier this month, 120 people were hospitalized in Dallas and Austin, Texas, over a batch of tainted synthetic marijuana. Several patients reportedly had to be restrained due to violent outbursts as a result of the drug. Last September, three deaths in Colorado were reportedly tied to synthetic marijuana, while four deaths were attributed to Molly that same month.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.