Public Safety & Justice

Indiana Cracking Down on Synthetic Drugs

by | May 23, 2014

By Barb Berggoetz

More compounds used in making synthetic drugs, such as spice and K2, have been banned by the Indiana Board of Pharmacy.

The board announced Thursday it passed emergency rules, effective in 30 days, banning four types of these substances. The rules remain in effect until next year, when the Indiana General Assembly can make the rules into law.

"These harmful products can be lethal and are being marketed to and targeted at Indiana's youth," said Nicholas W. Rhoad, executive director of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which includes the pharmacy board. "We are collaborating with the authorities to quickly respond to these situations and make sure that these drugs aren't available."

Under a 2012 state law, legislators gave the pharmacy board power to ban such "lookalike" compounds until the legislature can act. Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, author of the law, said the state has been struggling to keep pace with synthetic drug makers who have found easy workarounds to previous bans.

The state banned chemicals used in the creation of "bath salts" last year. Since 2012, the board has previously banned six other synthetic drugs.

"Hoosiers under the impression that designer drugs are safer than the illicit substances they are designed to mimic are paying with their lives," said Merritt. "These haphazard, deadly concoctions are being marketed to young people and the results are tragic."

Last month, four high school students were treated at Columbus Regional Hospital after becoming ill from smoking spice.

Spice products are second only to marijuana in the use of illicit drugs by young people, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, by young people because of easy access, a misconception the products are natural and not being easily detected on drug tests.

A lawsuit, filed in May 2013 in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, by a group of store owners, challenged Indiana's efforts to curb so-called lookalike drugs. The measure is pending. Four members of the National Association of Aromatherapy Product Producers and Vendors contend the law stretched beyond cracking down on synthetic drugs to granting the state arbitrary power to confiscate legal products from businesses.

The stores, including Mishawaka organic food distributor B&B Distributions and Marion head shop Bohemian Groove, argue the law was written too vaguely and has been hurting their businesses.

(c)2014 The Indianapolis Star

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