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The White House
For Immediate Release

Readout of White House Drug Policy Director Kerlikowske’s Meeting with Chinese Officials Regarding the Threat of Synthetic Drugs

(Vienna, Austria.)

– Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, met with Wei Xiaojun, Deputy Secretary-General of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, and other Chinese officials to discuss a variety of drug control issues of mutual concern, including reducing the flow of precursor chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine and efforts to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations. 

During the meeting, Director Kerlikowske expressed concern regarding the emerging threat of synthetic drugs on public health and safety in the United States.   Often marketed as legal substances, synthetic drugs are sometimes labeled as “herbal incense” or “bath salts” and sold in small pouches or packets over the Internet, in tobacco and smoke shops, drug paraphernalia shops, gas stations, and convenience stores.  The chemicals used in the production of these chemicals originate from multiple sources, including China.  Director Kerlikowske expressed the need to identify opportunities for closer cooperation between the United States and China on this issue to reduce the threats they pose. 

“We appreciate our cooperative relationship with China on a range of drug control issues—in particular, our joint efforts to reduce the illegal flow of precursor chemicals used in methamphetamine production,” said Director Kerlikowske. “The rising threat of new synthetic drugs requires a truly international response, and we look forward to extending our cooperative work with China to address the dangers that these substances pose to the citizens of both our countries.”

In December, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released new information indicating that one in nine high school seniors had used “Spice” or “K2” over the past year, making synthetic marijuana the second most frequently used illicit drug, after marijuana, among high school seniors.  Poison Control Centers operating across the nation have also reported sharp increases in the number of calls nationwide related to synthetic drugs.  Last year, there were 6,959 calls related to synthetic marijuana and 6,138 calls related to “bath salts.” This compares to 2,906 and 304 calls in 2010 respectively.  The Drug Enforcement Administration recently used their emergency scheduling authority to ban chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs.  Several states have also passed legislation to make these substances illegal.   

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