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Press Release

Reps. Jeffries, Gowdy, Butterfield, & Collins Lead Bipartisan Effort to Eliminate Deadly Synthetic Drug Abuse

Washington, DC –A bipartisan delegation of House members, led by U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Trey Gowdy (SC-4) , G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) and Chris Collins (NY-27),  have introduced a bill designed to measure and mitigate the detrimental effects of synthetic drugs across America. The Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2016, H.R. 5020, would require the United States Surgeon General to submit a report to Congress on the public health effects of the rise in synthetic drug use among young people aged 12 to 18. This comprehensive study is essential to further educate parents and the medical community on the health effects of synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants.

Synthetic drugs are chemically produced in a laboratory. Their chemical structure can be either identical to or different from naturally occurring drugs, and their effects are designed to mimic or even enhance those of natural drugs. When produced clandestinely, they are not typically controlled pharmaceutical substances intended for legitimate medical use.

According to the New York City Department of Health, since 2015, there have been more than 6,000 synthetic cannabinoid-related emergency department visits in New York, with males account for approximately 90% of these emergency room visits. Nationwide, the problem is even more significant. A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found 11,406 emergency department visits involving a synthetic cannabinoid product during 2010. In a 2013 report, SAMHSA reported the number of emergency department visits in 2011 skyrocketed 250% to 28,531. Even worse, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, use of synthetic cannabinoids is alarmingly high among young people.  One in nine 12th graders in America reported using synthetic cannabinoids in the past year.  This rate puts synthetic cannabinoids as the second most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors after marijuana.

Rep. Jeffries said: “In order to solve the problem, we must completely understand the problem. This legislation will help provide the Congress and public health officials with the information necessary to combat the rising scourge of synthetic drug abuse throughout the country. The Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2016 is a strong first step in an all-hands-on-deck effort to eradicate the use of synthetic drugs in New York City and across America.”

Rep. Gowdy said: “This report from the Surgeon General is critical to providing Congress with the information we need to better counter the rapid rise of synthetic drug use among young people today. I thank Rep. Jeffries for his hard work on this bi-partisan legislation and his dedication to combatting drug use among our youth.”

Rep. Butterfield said: “The frequency with which individuals, particularly young people, use synthetic drugs with little understanding of the potential side effects is extremely concerning.  Synthetic drugs are not safe.  The risks associated with these substances can be extremely dangerous and pose a serious and long term threat to an individual’s health and wellbeing.  This legislation seeks to raise awareness among policymakers and the public of the true dangers associated with synthetic drug use and the threat it poses to public health.”

Rep. Collins said: “Knowing the devastating effects synthetic drugs are having on New York’s youth is essential to successfully combatting this growing problem,” said Congressman Chris Collins. “I want to thank Congressman Jeffries for his leadership on this issue and look forward to helping him raise awareness.”