DEA Teams With NYPD To Battle Spice In The Big Apple

By John Lavitt 10/22/15

Sales of synthetic drugs have allegedly fueled terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East.

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The Drug Enforcement Administration has teamed with the New York Police Department (NYPD) to direct efforts against the local sale of dangerous designer synthetic drugs manufactured in China.

Over the past several years, the DEA has identified over 400 designer drugs from eight different structural classes, the vast majority of which are manufactured in China. The criminal organization taken down had been allegedly funneling the profits into international terrorism and Middle Eastern conflict.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said, “This is a scourge on our society, affecting the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and our most challenged citizens. It affects teenagers in public housing, [the] homeless in the city shelter system, and it’s quite literally flooding our streets ... It is sold by the names of Galaxy, Diamond, Rush, and Matrix. But its real name is poison.”

Targeting the sale of the drugs in all five boroughs, the operation focused on the unlawful importation of at least 100 kilograms of illegal synthetic compounds by a criminal organization. Although seemingly small when compared to the importation of other illegal drugs, this amount is enough to produce more than a quarter million retail packets.

As part of the operation, five processing facilities were raided. In addition, warehouses used to store and distribute the drugs were taken down. On a street level, more than 80 bodegas around New York City were searched as part of the overall operation.

Synthetic drugs are widely accessible because they are inexpensive and commonly sold at legitimate retail locations. The colorful logos used on the retail packets along with the flavors offered, such as strawberry, blueberry and even Scooby Snax, making the drugs attractive to teenagers and young adults. The designer drugs are marketed as harmless products like herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner, or plant food.

When ingested or smoked, synthetic drugs have been linked to psychotic breaks, overdoses, and death. Beyond the domestic toll, profits from the illegal drug sales are flowing directly to Middle Eastern conflict countries, including Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

“Synthetic cannabinoids are anything but safe. They are a toxic cocktail of lethal chemicals," said DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt. "By investigating and arresting manufacturers and distributors of ‘spice’ in the city, we have cut off the accessibility for those feeding the beast.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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