WASHINGTON, October 20, 2015/ — Appearing before Congress on Tuesday, Dr. Kenneth Katz, an emergency physician and ACEP member from Allentown, Pennsylvania, called on representatives to pass H.R. 3537, the “Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2015,” saying the drug epidemic confronting the United States has worsened in recent years due to the accessibility of cheaply made, mass-produced, deadly synthetic drugs.
Dr. Katz, who is board certified in emergency medicine, medical toxicology and internal medicine, testified on behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which is chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA).
“In every community across this nation, my colleagues and I are treating more and more patients who have experienced synthetic drug toxicity or poisoning,” said Dr. Katz. “The use of these dangerous chemicals has directly led to violence, hospitalizations and deaths.”
The term “synthetic drugs” describes non-organic, chemically synthesized, unsafe recreational drugs that produce mind-altering effects. Many of these substances are marketed as everyday products, like incense, plant fertilizer or air freshener. They are then sold in convenience stores, gas stations or online. Because they are easily accessible and commercial sold, many users presume they must be safe. They are labeled “not for human consumption” to mask their intended purposes and avoid Food and Drug Administration oversight, and they have been given street names such as “Scooby Snacks,” “Smiley,” “Cloud Nine” and “Vanilla Sky” to make them seem less threatening.
“The public should not be fooled about synthetic drugs,” said Dr. Katz. “Even though these products may be hiding in plain sight, they are colorfully-packaged poisons.”
Emergency department visits involving synthetic drugs has increased by nearly 70 percent between 2010 and 2011 (11,406 to 28,531), according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The number of emergency department visits for patients aged 12 to 17 doubled from about 3,800 to more than 7,500 during that same timeframe. Emergency visits for patients aged 18-20 quadrupled from about 1,800 to more than 8,200. Men make up about 80 percent of the emergency department visits.
ACEP’s Immediate Past President, Dr. Alex Rosenau, recently joined Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) to introduce the “Synthetic Drug Control Act.” If enacted, the law would strengthen existing federal statute which provides that any compound which is chemically or pharmacologically similar to a controlled substance in Schedule I drugs (heroin, marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, etc.) or Schedule II drugs (oxycodone, methamphetamine, morphine, codeine, etc.) of the Controlled Substances Act is to be legally treated as though it were also listed in that same schedule.
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.