Synthetic drugs are just what they sound like: man made. They are chemical compounds that provide users with experiences similar to natural hallucinogens, marijuana and other known drugs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been working to shut down synthetic drug manufacturers and traffickers and just this month made a major move toward putting a chokehold on the synthetic drug trade.
In early May, 2014, the DEA handed out literally hundreds of search warrants and arrest papers at smoke shops, warehouses and even private residences. The 29-state sweep represents the agency’s renewed efforts to stop synthetic drugs in the U.S. and abroad.
Back in 2010, the DEA made five of the chemicals used to create synthetic drugs illegal. But backroom drug makers subsequently tweaked their formulas in order to skirt the chemical bans. Since then the agency has been dogging drug makers. But because the compounds can be changed in order to escape prosecution, the DEA has been one step behind those responsible for drugs like Spice, Molly, K2 and Bath salts.
A spokesman for the government agency’s Special Operations Division reports that efforts are currently being directed toward Chinese drug makers and distributors residing here in the U.S. But another big concern has to do with where the drug profits are winding up. People following the money trail say millions are landing in Middle Eastern pockets. When drug dollars get diverted to places like Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, government offices surmise that some of it, if not all of it, is being used to fund terrorism.
In fact, a 2013 DEA report referred to the symbiotic relationship that exists between drug traffickers and terrorist organizations around the globe. The latest DEA crackdown focused on drug makers here in the U.S. But more and more the agency has been working in partnership with other broader-reaching offices such as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A seven-month joint operation last year yielded 150 arrests and around one ton of seized drugs.
The DEA’s most recent sweep was part of 33 cases it had been working on in conjunction with Immigration and Customs offices. The hope is that the government can make it hard to stay in business and make money from synthetic drug sales here.