Jeffries leads synthetic drug fact-finding effort

April 28, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries says that in order to combat the problem of synthetic drugs, “we must completely understand the problem.” Photo courtesy of Jeffries’ office
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A bipartisan delegation of House members, led by U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, is on a mission to get the facts behind the rise in the use of synthetic drugs across the country.

Jeffries, along with U.S. Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina) and Chris Collins (R-Erie County), has introduced a bill, the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2016, that would require the U.S. Surgeon General to submit a report to Congress on the public health effects of the rise in synthetic drug use among young people ages 12 to 18.

Such a comprehensive study is essential in order to educate parents and the medical community on the health effects of synthetic drugs and stimulants, according to Jeffries (D-Brooklyn-Queens).

“In order to solve the problem, we must completely understand the problem. This legislation will help provide the Congress and public health officials with the information necessary to combat the rising scourge of synthetic drug abuse throughout the country. The Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2016 is a strong first step in an all-hands-on-deck effort to eradicate the use of synthetic drugs in New York City and across America,” Jeffries said in a statement.

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Synthetic drugs are produced in a laboratory. Their chemical structure can be either identical to or different from naturally occurring drugs, and their effects are designed to mimic or even enhance those of natural drugs, Jeffries said.

The danger comes from the fact that synthetic drugs are not typically controlled pharmaceutical substances intended for legitimate medical use.

The drugs are sold with deceptively soothing-sounding names like “bath salts” and often come in packaging designed to make them appear to be something other than what they are, according to, the website of the drug rehabilitation organization Narconon.

Jeffries cited troubling statistics from the New York City Department of Health showing that there have been more than 6,000 synthetic drug-related emergency room visits in New York since 2015. Males account for approximately 90 percent of the emergency room visits.

One in nine 12th-graders in the U.S. reported using synthetic drugs in the past year, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. This rate puts synthetic drugs as the second most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors after marijuana, Jeffries said.

“This report from the Surgeon General is critical to providing Congress with the information we need to better counter the rapid rise of synthetic drug use among young people today,” Gowdy said.

“Synthetic drugs are not safe. The risks associated with these substances can be extremely dangerous and pose a serious and long term threat to an individual’s health and wellbeing. This legislation seeks to raise awareness among policymakers and the public of the true dangers associated with synthetic drug use and the threat it poses to public health,” Butterfield said.



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