In an effort to cut down on synthetic drug overdoses, Illinois has passed legislation to move the substances to a higher classification with stricter regulations and harsher penalties for possession and distribution.
Senate Bill 1129, which went into effect earlier this month, reclassifies chemically produced structures like synthetic marijuana and bath salts as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Drugs in the Schedule 1 classification have no known medical use and are likely to lead to addiction or dependence.
Judy Emerson, who works as a Director of Communications for an addiction treatment center in Rockford, said many teens and adults mistakenly assume these synthetic drugs are safe because they are designed to mimic a natural product, but it’s impossible to predict how a body will respond to the chemicals in the product.
“Nobody knows what’s in these things and so therefore no body can predict the effect on the person who uses them,” said Emerson.”
Spike in Overdoses
When you look at the drug data from last year, it’s easy to see why Illinois wants to make it harder for people to get their hands on synthetic drugs. Officials say synthetic drug use has tripled in the past year, and at least 15 individuals died from synthetic marijuana use alone in 2015. The problem isn’t just isolated in Illinois, either. According to the Centers for Disease, the number of calls to poison control centers because of synthetic drug ingestion increased more than 200 percent from 2014 to 2015.
“These kind of substances have shown up across the country and have resulted in many hospital visits with young people experiencing seizures, hallucinations, all kinds of erratic behaviors and psychotic episodes, and even some deaths,” added Emerson.
67th District Representative Litesa Wallace said that the reclassification of synthetic drugs now puts them in the same category as other chemically-produced substances, like heroin or LSD.
“Its reclassifying those particular drugs, making them comparable to their chemical comparison,” said Wallace. “We see things like synthetic ecstasy or the bath salts things like that, so what this particular legislation is doing is classifying them as illegal.”
Under the new law, possession of these drugs could be met with a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by up to three years in prison and fines up to $25,000.