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The New Coke; Cooper’s Law Bans Synthetic Cocaine Marketed as “Bath Salts”

Legislator Cooper

The office of Legislator Cooper issued this release:

HUNTINGTON, NY—Cocaine is illegal, right? Right…except when it’s synthetically manufactured and marketed as “bath salts.” The latest rage in so-called “legal drugs,” these stimulants can cause extreme paranoia, hallucinations, psychosis, violent behavior and even suicidal thoughts. They are now being sold over the internet and at “head shops” where other drug paraphernalia is available.

Concerned that unscrupulous drug manufacturers and retailers have found another loophole to purvey their dangerous and potentially lethal wares, the Suffolk County Legislature yesterday unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Legislative Majority Leader Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) that bans synthetic cocaine containing the drug known as MDPV, regardless of how it is marketed. This drug is comprised of Methylone (patented in 1996 as an antidepressant) and Mephedrone (a stimulant first synthesized in 1929 but not widely known until it was rediscovered in 2003). It affects the body in ways similar to cocaine, crack and methamphetamines. Under Cooper’s law, those caught selling these compounds will face fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in jail.

These drugs are typically manufactured in Europe, China and India. Besides bath salts, they are also marketed as plant food, pond scum remover and incense. They can be found under brand names like Ivory Wave, Ocean, Charge +, White Lightning, Scarface, Hurricane Charlie, Red Dove, Cloud-9 and White Dove among others. They are typically sold in individual bags—about $20 for a 2-gram pouch. Their iridescent wrappers promise euphoria and invigoration and the packaging usually contains a winking disclaimer that the product is not for human consumption.  Users typically snort, swallow, smoke or even inject the powder or tablets that come in the packages.

“These drugs and those who purvey them are reprehensible,” says Cooper. “They offer a cheap and seemingly legitimate path to entice users. But in the end, the price abusers pay is too high, sometimes the highest of them all. That’s why it’s so important to close this dangerous loophole before even more of our children find themselves ensnared in this trap.”

Public health advocates applaud Cooper’s ban on the sale of synthetic cocaine.

“We are thrilled that Legislator Cooper has once again stepped up to protect Suffolk’s young people. The use of bath salts is increasing both locally and nationally and poses a significant health threat to unsuspecting users,” says Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD). “The DEA has named bath salts a ‘drug of concern’ and the active ingredient—MDPV—has no therapeutic value. This drug is a stimulant and in the short term is landing young people in emergency rooms with hallucinations, tachycardia, nausea and other symptoms. The long-term impact remains unclear, but is certainly a major concern.”

In 2010 there were 233 reports calls to U.S. poison centers for the ingestion of the chemicals most commonly found in these products, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. In the first ten days of 2011, that number had already hit 69.

Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota have already enacted similar prohibitions. Senator Charles Schumer has proposed a bill that would add this drug to a list of federally controlled substances. Earlier this month, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency listed MDPV as a “drug of concern,” which means the agency is examining the possibility of banning its sale.The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Israel have already banned the chemicals.

While Cooper is encouraged by the attention these drugs have gotten at the federal level, he warns that it is a very slow and arduous process to obtain a federal prohibition.

“There’s a lengthy process to restrict these types of chemicals, including reviewing the abuse data. It’s a process that can take years,” warns Cooper. “That’s time that too many of our communities—already plagued by illicit drugs—simply cannot afford.”

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