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Philly CBP Intercepts New Synthetic Amphetamine Stimulants

Release Date: 
March 3, 2011

Philadelphia - The tablets and powder carried names like Ocean, Fury and Ardor, but to Customs and Border Protection officers and scientists, these recent international arrivals of aromatic incense are really synthetic amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) of substituted cathinones.


Philadelphia Customs and Border Protection officers recently seized more than 4,700 doses of synthetic amphetamine stimulants, with an approximate domestic value of $28,000, for violating the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Philadelphia Customs and Border Protection officers recently seized more than 4,700 doses of synthetic amphetamine stimulants, with an approximate domestic value of $28,000, for violating the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.


Working with the Food and Drug Administration, CBP officers seized more than 4,700 doses of 4-MMC, 3,4-DMMC and 6-APB as untested, unapproved and misbranded drugs under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The seized chemical compounds have a domestic value of more than $28,000.

"These synthetic compounds are a classic case of caveat emptor, or buyer beware. Besides emulating illegal narcotics, the products haven't been clinically evaluated in the United States so consumers can't be absolutely confident that the chemicals won't harm or kill them," said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. "These new synthetic stimulants raise serious concerns throughout our communities and throughout law enforcement."

The first of the 69 parcels of aromatic incense arrived on Oct. 27, the last on Jan. 8; however, most arrived in November. All were shipped from Europe and arrived at the UPS facility near Philadelphia International Airport destined for many cities across the U.S., including Philadelphia.

CBP officers submitted samples to CBP's Laboratories and Scientific Services (LSS) in Savannah, Ga., for analysis.

LSS is CBP's forensic, scientific and engineering arm. They conduct forensic and scientific testing in the area of trade enforcement, weapons of mass destruction, intellectual property rights, and narcotics enforcement.

CBP scientists identified the chemical compounds as: 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC); 3,4 dimethylmethcathinone (3,4-DMMC) and 6-(2-aminopropyl) benzofuran (6-APB). All are synthetic stimulant variants of amphetamine and cathinone.

ATS compounds are based upon a phenylethylamine (PEA) core. Examples include ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, precursors of amphetamine, methamphetamine and methcathinone. Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and cathinone are naturally occurring plant alkaloids but may also be derived by chemical synthesis.

Officials at the express mail facility here have since blocked additional parcels from the shipper.

Federal authorities are trying to keep up with the quick pace of synthetic chemical compounds and counterfeit pharmaceuticals entering the U.S. marketplace.

Many synthetic compounds replicate the psychoactive amphetamine effect found in marijuana. Users swallow, snort, inject or vaporize. Some chemical compounds are sprayed on dried plant material, burned like incense and inhaled.

Recent news stories describe deaths attributed to "bath salts," a usually white powder marketed under the names Ivory Wave and White Lightning and that contain mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

"Any users foolish enough to introduce unknown and unregulated synthetic compounds into their bodies without considering the potentially deadly side effects are rolling the dice with their lives," said Martocci. "In many cases, these chemical compounds are being marketed as plant food and not for human consumption. That advertising alone should raise serious red flags for consumers."

CBP officers in Philadelphia encountered synthetic cannabinoid compounds marketed as K2 and Spice during December 2009 and January 2010. States, starting in the mid-west criminalized the compound and the DEA is in the process of scheduling five similar chemicals as controlled substances.

"CBP officers and lab scientists remain committed to working with our enforcement partners, including the FDA and the DEA, in protecting American consumers against unregulated and untested recreational chemical compounds and counterfeit pharmaceutical medications," said Martocci.


For more information on CBP's Laboratories and Scientific Services

For more information on the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act)

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017