Designer drugs evolve faster than laws to restrict them

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In the summer of 2010, a new designer drug hit central Indiana. It was called K2 incense or Spice. It was marketed as incense, but it contained a mixture of herbs that had been sprayed with lab-created chemicals that mimicked a marijuana-like high.

Then an even harsher drug hit convenience stores in Indiana: bath salts. They are being sold under a variety of names, including Ivory Wave,Tranquility, Blue Silk and Ocean Snow, among others. One Greenfield woman recently arrested in connection with thefts police say her drug habit compelled her to commit, called it Rave On.

“If you just took [cocaine] and Rave On, I would do Rave On because it’s like two of the hardest drugs mixed together, and it’s a lot more intense then just cocaine” said 18-year old Amber Eckler. She and five friends were arrested this week for a number of break-ins in the area. Police said they used the money they got from selling the stolen property to support their addiction.

Starting July 1, the chemical compounds that make up “synthetic drugs will be illegal in Indiana. The Indiana Legislature passed a 22-page bill banning the substances. Four of those 22 pages are filled with just the names of chemical compounds.

“Some of what’s going on is folks are reading research literature and published papers, and they’re pulling these psychoactive compounds and manufacturing it,” said Nancy Beals, Prevention Project coordinator for the organization Drug Free Marion County.

The concept sounds far-fetched, but it happened to Dr. Dave Nichols, a professor of Pharmacology at Purdue University. Underground chemists are copying the chemical compounds he’s published for drugs that treat Parkinson’s and depression, and they’re using them to create designer street drugs. With their understanding of chemistry, they can manipulate the specific chemical formulations, too, in response to legal efforts to stop them.

“As they shift the chemical composition, the state legislature is going to be running to keep up with it,” Beals said.

For example, he said, a compound called K4 is already being created in Europe, similar to K2 incense, but with a different chemical makeup that would skirt the legislation that goes into affect July 1.

As far as enforcement of the new law, Attorney General Greg Zoeller called the law “a moving target.”

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