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State officials work to keep track of synthetic drug developments

Last month, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals accounted it would be banning the possession, manufacture and distribution of25-I, a synthetic drug that reportedly killed an Alabama student at this year's Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. According to the agency, there has been a significant increase in synthetic drug abuse over the last two years.

In response to the problem, state lawmakers have passed legislation permitting the Department of Health and Hospitals to unilaterally ban certain synthetic drugs immediately by emergency rule. Last month's announcement was an exercise of that authority.

25-I will now be classified as a Schedule I substance along with heroin, ecstasy and LSD, and use of the drug will carry the maximum penalty under state law.

The death of the student at this year's Voodoo Festival was the first confirmed death caused by 25-I in Louisiana. According to witnesses, the student had a seizure and never regained consciousness within fifty minutes of placing only one drop of the drug in his nose. Minnesota, North Dakota, California and North Carolina have also confirmed deaths.

The problem of controlling synthetic drugs has been described by state officials as a game of wack-a-mole, as new formulations of such drugs are continually being developed and it is difficult to keep track of all the various formulations and make sure state law addresses them.

If a particular synthetic drug isn't banned by state law, those found in possession it cannot be targeted by prosecutors. For this reason, officials are continually working to expand their authority to prosecute. Currently, there is ongoing work on a bill that will work to outlaw synthetic drugs on a larger scale by singling out narcotics that "simulate emulate, or mimic" 25-I and bath salts.

Source: NOLA.com, "25-I banned after Voodoo Fest death, Legislature to move forward on anti-drug laws," Lauren McGaughy, November 9, 2012

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