Synthetic drugs like K2 and spice are once again rearing their heads in New York as one lawmaker sets his sites on a permanent ban. The resurgence has prompted democratic Senator Charles Schumer to push for a permanent barring of 22 substances that activate these drugs so they can no longer flood the market. Last week, there were approximately 130 synthetic drug overdoses in New York, a trend that is troubling local and federal lawmakers and compelling them into action. Last year, there were over 6,000 incidents of hospitalization for K2 overdose. As the region continues to battle longstanding heroin and opioid abuse, threats like synthetic drug abuse persist in many communities.
Schumer is calling for a “federal hammer” to strike down the proliferation of synthetic drugs before the problem escalates any further. He claims that banning these substances will help federal regulators curb the flow of these substances. The legislation he’s proposing will significantly regulate synthetic cannabinoids, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can be 100 times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The measure also calls for the regulation of certain kinds of the opioid fentanyl, a powerful painkiller that has led to more and more overdoses and fatalities over the past few years.
The bi-partisan bill would designate more chemicals as Schedule 1 controlled substances, but may not take into account the larger problem. The evolution of synthetic drug development has seen cycle after cycle of regulation and subsequent infiltration of new and legal drugs. Chemists change a few compounds so the drug is virtually the same, but different enough not to be classified as a controlled substance. While this legislation may be a proactive measure, it may need to be accompanied by more prevention and treatment efforts. Schumer also plans to introduce legislation that would give the DEA more latitude to ban unlisted chemicals.