Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on September 23, 2013

CRS – Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress, September 16, 2013.

“Synthetic drugs, as opposed to natural drugs, are chemically produced in a laboratory. Their chemical structure can be either identical to or different from naturally occurring drugs, and their effects are designed to mimic or even enhance those of natural drugs. When produced clandestinely, they are not typically controlled pharmaceutical substances intended for legitimate medical use. Designer drugs are a form of synthetic drugs. They contain slightly modified molecular structures of illegal or controlled substances, and they are modified in order to circumvent existing drug laws. While the issue of synthetic drugs and their abuse is not new, Congress has demonstrated a renewed concern with the issue. From 2009-2011, synthetic drug abuse was reported to have dramatically increased. During this time period, calls to poison control centers for incidents relating to harmful effects of synthetic cannabinoids (such as “K2” and “Spice”) and stimulants (such as “bath salts”) increased at what some considered to be an alarming rate. The number of hospital emergency department visits involving synthetic cannabinoids more than doubled from 2010 to 2011.”

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