Washington County law enforcement agencies may soon have a new drug to look out for.
Just last month, near Cambridge, the Ohio Highway Patrol confiscated several doses of 2C-E, a synthetic drug that has been described as a more powerful and longer lasting version of LSD.
"It is new out on the street. It can be liquid, pills or crystalline powder. We found it as a crystalline," said Sgt. Bob Robson of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
The Associated Press
The designer synthetic hallucinogen 2C-E, shown here in its crystalline powder form, was recently confiscated by the Ohio Highway Patrol near Cambridge.
The potent drug has already resulted in at least two overdoses. A 19-year-old Minnesota man died in March 2011 after ingesting the drug at a party. Two months later, a 22-year-old Oklahoma woman also died after having several seizures under the influence of the drug.
Agencies have yet to see evidence of the drug locally. But just as bath salts and K2, or synthetic marijuana, trickled into the Mid-Ohio Valley from Columbus and larger cities, it seems only a matter of time before 2C-E will do the same, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
"I anticipate it will appear in our area before very long," said Mincks.
New drug found in Ohio
2C-E, a synthetic hallucinogenic, similar to LSD, but more powerful and longer lasting.
Part of the 2C family which contains more than two dozen variations.
Similar to bath salts and K2 in that it has shown dangerous reactions in users and in that its make-up can easily be changed to get around illegal substance laws.
Confiscated by the Ohio Highway Patrol near Cambridge.
Likely to eventually migrate from larger cities into the local area, according to local law enforcement officials.
Monitoring the drug activities in the larger cities is a fairly accurate way of predicting what drugs will soon be problematic locally, said Major Brian Schuck with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
"We're not a supply city. We're a user city," explained Schuck.
Local drug users count on dealers traveling to a supply city such as Columbus to meet the local demand. It is inevitable that the newest drugs eventually make their way back along with the usual drugs, said Schuck.
The 2C-E drug falls into a larger 2C family, which already includes more than a dozen variations. Much like the ever-mutating versions of bath salts and K2, or synthetic marijuana, the drug poses a problem for law enforcement agencies. The ability to easily tweak the 2C compound into newer and more potent versions means it can potentially circumvent the law.
"The problem with bath salts is they are labeled so many different things," said Detective Ryan Huffman of the Marietta Police Department, who has seen the drug labeled as everything from floor cleaner to fish food.
Because of this, law makers can not easily ban the drugs but rather have to ban specific chemicals inside the drugs.
For example, the Marietta City Ordinance that banned bath salts in July 2011 actually banned the following substances: 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), 4-methylmethcathinone (mepthedrone, 4-MMC), 4-methoxymethcathinone (methedrone), 3, 4-flouromethcathinone (flephedrone), 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone (methylone), butylone, and naphyrone.
"These drugs have all these little molecules here. Well, by changing one of those molecules, they can change it from illegal to legal...and that is what they are doing to this little 2C family," said Mincks.
Therefore, the laws need to be constantly updated to keep up with the tweaks and trends. On top of that, drug identifiers at the Bureau of Criminal Identification have to be considered an expert on a particular drug in order to testify in a case involving it. These drug experts are now struggling to keep up with all the new drugs, and becoming knowledgeable enough could take four to six months for a single drug, said Mincks.
As a result, prosecutors are not always able to prosecute the cases as harshly.
Recently, Stephen M. Partin, 22, and Sarah A. Partin, 21, of Franklin Street, Marietta were indicted on fifth-degree felony counts of sale of drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Partins were caught manipulating and selling K2 out of their home, said police.
Neighborhood children were reportedly getting violently sick as a result of taking the drug. However, the Partins could not be charged with trafficking in drugs because at the time they were caught, K2 was not yet considered a drug, according to prosecutors.
Synthetic drugs - bath salts, K2, and now the 2C family - are trapping drug makers and law enforcement agencies in a never-ending game of catch-up, said officers.
However, an open network of communication between agencies makes the drug trends easier to stay on top of, said Mincks.
"The Internet has really helped all law enforcement. Once one agency starts experiencing it, we start getting emails, bulletins, photographs," said Schuck.
Additionally, a lot of the synthetic drug trade takes place on the Internet and can be caught in the mail, said Huffman.
"We are working with our postal service. They know a lot of the locations that these items are coming from," he said.
In the meantime, an early warning is a good start for local agencies to prepare for the appearance of the drug in our area.
"The synthetic drug, eventually is it going to be here? You bet it's going to be here. But we know ahead of time it's coming," said Schuck.