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H.R. 449 (115th): Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2018

H.R. 449 requires the U.S. Surgeon General to report to Congress on the public health effects of the rise in synthetic drug use among youth aged 12 to 18 years old in order to further educate parents and the medical community on the health effects of synthetics.

Synthetic drugs, as opposed to natural drugs, are chemically produced in a laboratory.  When produced clandestinely, they are not typically controlled pharmaceutical substances intended for legitimate medical use and contain slightly modified molecular structures of illegal or controlled substances in order to circumvent existing drug laws. Examples include synthetic cannabinoids (Spice, K2), cathinones (Bath Salts), psychedelic phenethylamines (N-Bomb), and fentanyl. Government and media reports indicate that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-100 times stronger than morphine, is rising in popularity as well as various synthetic cannabinoids.

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was enacted as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. It regulates the manufacture, possession, use, importation, and distribution of certain drugs, substances, and precursor chemicals. Under the CSA, there are five schedules under which substances may be classified—Schedule I being the most restrictive.

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012—Subtitle D of Title XI of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (P.L. 112-144)—added five structural classes of substances in synthetic cannabinoids (and their analogues) as well as 11 synthetic stimulants and hallucinogens to Schedule I of the CSA. In addition, the act extended the DEA's authority to temporarily schedule substances. Before DEA’s recently issued order to schedule all fentanyl-related compounds under Schedule I, when the agency would temporarily control one given fentanyl substance, illicit manufacturers abroad would produce new analogs through minor structural modifications to be smuggled and distributed as a purportedly “noncontrolled substances.”

Last updated Jun 12, 2018. Source: Republican Policy Committee

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 11, 2017.

Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2017

This bill requires the Surgeon General to report to Congress on the public health effects of the increased use since January 2010 by individuals who are 12 to 18 years old of drugs developed and manufactured to avoid control under the Controlled Substances Act (e.g., synthetic marijuana, also known as "spice," and synthetic amphetamines, also known as "bath salts").