Police departments across the country are encountering a growing trend in the use of inexpensive synthetic drugs. The drugs are sold under a variety of names, and come in a variety of formulations that are constantly changing. The synthetic drugs come in packages which typically say they should not be ingested, but consumers are increasingly using them to mimic the effects of street drugs.

After a series of attacks across the country involving individuals who consumed synthetic drugs, Ohio Senator Rob Portman has introduced an amendment to a Senate FDA bill that would put a federal ban on the substance. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 92-4 on Tuesday and is now set to go to the president, who is expected to sign it.

The effects of the synthetic drugs are apparently closer to synthetic methamphetamine and cocaine than to marijuana, and include excited delirium, paranoia, extraordinary strength, violence and unpredictable behavior. The drugs work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain to dangerous levels and trapping it there so the user doesn’t come down from their high.

In one incident, a Florida man was suspected of taking the drugs after he was discovered lying naked on top of a homeless man eating his face. A toxicology report has since shown, however, that the there were no bath salts or other major street drugs, other than marijuana, in the attacker’s system. In another recent case, a Texas man who attacked a family pet after taking a version of the synthetic drugs faces a felony charge after that incident.

Congress has been asked to ban the substances, but because it could not agree on a bill, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a temporary ban which is set to expire in six months. Portman’s amendment would classify 28 synthetic drugs on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to sell or possess except for qualified researchers.

A number of states have already passed bans on various synthetic drugs, but consumers and vendors may not always be clear about which are legal and which are not.

Source: ABC News, “Rob Portman: Zombie Hunter,” Chris Moody, June 27, 2012