Michigan takes aim at class of chemicals to make them illegal in state

Health leaders say Phenethylamine drugs have resulted in 19 people being rushed to ER


DETROIT – The Michigan Board of Pharmacy has begun the process of the emergency scheduling of a class of synthetic drugs called Phenethylamine.

On Dec. 3, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Director James K. Haveman issued an imminent danger notification to the Michigan Board of Pharmacy within the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to begin the process of making this class of chemicals illegal in Michigan.

On Tuesday, LARA Acting Director Steve Arwood issued a statement that said the aim is to get Phenethylamine drugs classified as controlled substances.

"This decision was primarily based on an imminent danger notification from the Department of Community Health acting on recommendations from Michigan State Police (MSP), local health officers and law enforcement agencies," Arwood said.

Phenethylamine in Michigan  

Michigan has seen 19 cases across the state that have resulted in emergency department treatment and while there have been no fatalities in Michigan, there have been five nationwide. Information regarding this new drug indicates that it's coming in from overseas and being distributed within the state.

Information has shown that use of these chemicals has resulted in severe physiological and psychological effects on users throughout the state. Users have experienced hallucinations, disorientation, renal failure, seizures, tachycardia, hypovolemic shock, acute respiratory failure, central nervous system (CNS) depression, acute leukocytosis and rhabdomyolysis.

Since June 2012, information across the state regarding Phenethylamine drugs has been collected and sent to the MDCH by the Michigan Poison Control Center (MPCC), MSP, local health officers and law enforcement agencies. The MDCH said the frequency of individuals presenting to emergency departments throughout Michigan is steadily increasing.

This is the first time that the emergency scheduling process of synthetic drugs has been utilized since the law passed in June 2012. The scheduling of Phenethylamine drugs and a variety of amphetamine-like stimulants will not immediately take effect but requesting an emergency scheduling is the first step in the process.  

"With this class of synthetic drugs in Michigan, the state is doing all that it can to ban these substances as soon as possible," said James K. Haveman, Director of the MDCH. "Because these drugs are being sold under a wide variety of names and packaging forms, parents are highly encouraged to talk to their children and call the Michigan Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 about any concerns they may have." 

Michigan bans synthetic marijuana

Gov. Rick Snyder in June signed bills banning so-called synthetic marijuana.

The substance, sold under trade names like Spice and K2, has been available in stores as a mix of dried herbs and spices sprayed with chemicals. It has been blamed for health problems and violent behavior, especially among young people.

The bills crack down on synthetic cannabinoids and products sometimes referred to as bath salts. They also allow the Department of Community Health to declare health dangers when other synthetic drugs pop up. The bills were recently approved by the state Legislature.

Some counties and communities already have acted on their own to ban synthetic marijuana.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that at least 40 states have banned synthetic cannabinoids.

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