Top state legislators, health officials and law enforcement personnel held a news conference today announcing steps they've taken to ban a dangerous new drug, 25-I, making it illegal in the State of Louisiana.
State Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, joined Department of Health Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein, State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Police Crime Lab Director Captain Jim McGuane, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore and other law enforcement officials to announce that 25-I, also called Smiles or N-Bomb, has been added to the State's Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, effective immediately. Similar to "bath salts," which Louisiana made illegal two years ago following several deaths, 25-I is a synthetic drug that can cause brain hemorrhaging, seizures, hallucinations, confusion, paranoia, fear and panic.
Pearson proposed criminalizing this drug after an Arkansas man died last week in New Orleans after overdosing on 25-I at a festival. At least five people have died nationwide this year after taking 25-I, including the man who died in Louisiana. Other deaths occurred in Minnesota, North Dakota, California and North Carolina. Today, Louisiana becomes the second state, along with Virginia, to make 25-I illegal.
Over the past three months, the Louisiana Poison Center has received two calls related to 25-I, but health officials suspect more cases have occurred because without advanced lab analysis, it is difficult to pinpoint what type of drug is responsible for a drug overdose. Some drug overdoses that medical personnel or law enforcement presumed to be bath salts or other illicit drugs could be 25-I or another of many synthetic drugs.
"As manufacturers create new, synthetic narcotics, more lethal drugs have crept into our communities. We are taking swift action to make 25-I illegal and get it off the streets," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "The chemicals that go into these dangerous substances have no legitimate, medical uses and we are taking all steps available to find and punish those distributing it so we can keep our state safe."
"Today's announcement gives our law enforcement officials the tools they need to crack down on the people pushing these dangerous drugs," said State Representative Kevin Pearson of Slidell. "The distribution of drugs like this might start in urban areas, but we are not immune from these problems in the suburbs. We need to tackle this problem now with every tool available to us."
"I want to commend LDH for banning this dangerous substance immediately," said East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux. "As Sheriff, I am fully behind the ban and intend to ensure that we enforce it. The Sheriff's Office is committed to keeping our community safe, and that includes keeping dangerous drugs off our streets and out of the hands of our young people."
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said, "Everyone knows that even regulated, legitimate FDA approved drugs can have deadly side effects when used off label; the risk of death or permanent disability increases exponentially when individuals use unregulated chemical substances, as shown by the number of deaths occurring in Louisiana and nationwide, from unregulated synthetic chemicals concocted by persons whose only motive is in drug profits and not the health and safety of the consumer."
Louisiana revised statute 40:962, gives the LDH Secretary and State Health Officer authority to add new compounds as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Dangerous Substance Act by rule if the substance has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in the U.S., and if there is no accepted safety use of the substance under medical supervision.
Today, Greenstein and Dr. Guidry added 25-I - proper name 2-(4-iodo-2,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-N-[(2-methoxyphenyl)methyl]ethanamine (25I NBOMe) -- to the list of Schedule I drugs. With this act, anyone found possessing, manufacturing or distributing 25-I is subject to arrest and legal penalites, which could mean up to 30 years in prison. This synthetic drug is commonly manufactured in China and India, and is being sold in powder and liquid form online, which is how people access it in the United States.
Louisiana State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson said, "Leadership is critical in our efforts to protect the citizens of Louisiana, and I applaud the leadership of Representative Pearson and Secretary Greenstein for taking this important step. Nothing is more important than protecting public health. We remain committed to working with our law enforcement partners across the state to educate the public on the dangers of synthetic substances and take appropriate enforcement action when necessary."
Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham, medical director of LDH's Office of Behavioral Health, reminded parents that laws alone are not enough. "Parents must sit down today with their children and have a very honest and serious discussion about the consequences these drugs - and all illegal drugs have - not just the physical and psychological consequences, but now, the legal consequences. We need young people to understand that they can no longer afford not to know."
If you have any questions about this or any illicit drug substance, and especially if someone you know has been exposed to this or any drug, please call the Louisiana Poison Center at 800-222-1222. The clinical and medical toxicologists at the Poison Center can assist.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.