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Chicago Customs and Border Protection Officers and Chemists Find New Harmful Highs Coming to America

Release Date: 
October 16, 2012

Chicago - The illegal world of imported synthetic drugs has exploded in recent years with the volume of designer highs reaching whole new levels of mysterious molecular harm. As federal narcotics regulations broaden to include more illegal substances, illicit foreign chemists are wasting no time in concocting and selling new nonscheduled mimicking variations over the internet, hoping to circumvent Schedule 1 Controlled Substance classifications in the United States. In the last few months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Laboratories and Scientific Services chemists in Chicago have identified three new imported synthetic marijuana and methamphetamine compound derivatives coming to America.

specimens recently tested by CBP chemists in Chicago, Ill.

Customs and Border Protection officers sent these samples from incoming international shipments to the Chicago CBP Laboratory for analysis.

Recently, Chicago CBP chemists received a new organic synthetic cannabinoid, commonly known as synthetic marijuana. In September, the CBP Laboratory in Puerto Rico received a sample of this new organic compound for analysis from a local CBP express courier operation.

The sample was transferred to the Chicago CBP Laboratory which was able to provide further analytical data which was then identified by the CBP Laboratory in San Francisco. Arriving in a parcel from China and mis-manifested as a crystalline powder, this new synthetic marijuana was identified as 5F-AKB48, an analogue of AKB48. The Chicago CBP Laboratory has identified another new variation of synthetic marijuana known as A-834,735, which arrived in a parcel at the Chicago International Mail Branch.

During this summer, the Chicago CBP Laboratory analyzed an unknown beige powder and identified it as 6-APDB HCl, an analogue of MDA HCl. MDA HCl is an analogue of MDMA HCl which is also known as ecstasy.

"We are seeing a whole new level of synthetic highs coming to America," said William Wagner, Chicago CBP Laboratory Team Leader. "Our CBP chemists have tested hundreds of samples and uncovered emerging trends in the increase in variations of synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other synthetic drugs. In some cases, the chemical compound that arrives in the overseas packet is 100 to 800 times more potent than its natural counterpart. Upon ingestion, side effects can include elevated heart rates, paranoia, vomiting, severe agitation and hallucinations. It is simply unsafe to take these unknown drugs."

CBP officers, working at international mail facilities and express consignment courier hub operations throughout the country, inspect thousands of incoming parcels each day. Upon detection of a questionable substance, officers will detain the shipment and send samples to CBP chemists for analysis. If the shipment was incorrectly manifested or contained an illegal substance, the shipment is seized.

"These unpredictable chemical combinations are sending some users to the hospital and others to the grave," said Steven Artino, CBP Chicago Acting Director of Field Operations. "Our CBP officers have found these shipments arriving from China and Europe, manifested as various chemicals, white powders, or natural plant materials. The drugs come in bulk or in small kilo-sized heat sealed shiny aluminum Mylar packets that are divided into hundreds of three-gram packets and sold for $30 - $500 each. In recent years, the number of samples sent by our officers to CBP chemists for a determination of legality is increasing."

CBP LSS provides technical advice and analytical assistance to CBP officers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations agents, Border Patrol agents, and other government entities on a wide range of imports including synthetic designer drugs. CBP laboratories are located in Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Washington D.C.; Springfield, VA; New York, New York; Savannah, GA; Houston, TX; and Los Angeles, CA.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017