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Toxicologist: New Synthetic Drugs Contain Dangerous Secondary Ingredients

Last updated on Thursday, February 23, 2012

(Indianapolis)(FOX59) - Lawmakers are very close to a statewide ban on synthetic drugs. What’s inside the fake marijuana and cocaine, though?

The lab-produced drugs have been banned both federally and locally at least once, but now they're back and legal again. Kevin Shanks is a toxicologist at AIT Lab and said what he's seeing now is even stronger.

"Things that are appearing now are more potent."

Basically, all the drug makers do is change the recipe. They add or take away one thing and they're back in business. Shanks said he started studying the synthetic drugs because he needed to for work.

"We're doing testing for coroners, law enforcement to help determine the cause of death."

Synthetic marijuana is made by drying a plant and spraying it with a mixture of either acetone (nail polish remover) or ethanol and the synthetic drug.

"Primarily they are coming from China," said Shank.

What he's finding in the legal drugs isn't just the synthetic mixture mimicking marijuana.

"This one contained a benzodiazepine, a prescription not even approved for use here in the U.S. The fact that it's showing up in this material is alarming."

Most alarming, there is no way to know what you're buying when you get one of the packets because no one regulates what's in them.

"You don't know what combinations, what drugs you're going to get."

But Shanks said bath salts, also banned and now back under the name 'cleaners,' are even more dangerous than the synthetic marijuana. They are usually white powder that can be snorted or injected like cocaine. He said they are more dangerous because of how they react with your brain,

"You mix those three - the urge to redose, stimulant activity, paranoia - honestly it's just a recipe for disaster."

So there is a way around this chemistry problem. Lawmakers are now working to ban all chemicals with similar structures, so drug makers won't be able to just add or take something out of the recipe and make it legal again. The bill is currently being worked on at the Indiana State House.

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