SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A half-dozen North County residents were jailed this week as part of a multi-agency national crackdown on increasingly popular designer drugs often marketed under such deceptive names as "bath salts," "spice," "incense" or "plant food," federal authorities announced Thursday.
The arrests were part of "Operation Log Jam," the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against a set of mind-altering concoctions blamed for growing numbers of medical emergencies among their mostly youthful abusers, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Taken into custody Wednesday at a store and a home in Escondido were Allan Barillas, 20, Susan Green-Pollock, 53, Caleb Gerald Grissom, 18, Simon Calderon Hodge, 18, Johnny Duane Oates, 18, and Daniel Pollock, 20. Most of the suspects were scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon on state drug charges.
Agents searching the Magic Blends shop on Auto Park Way seized about 4,600 packages of "bath salts" and more than 2,800 containers of "spice," along with two kilograms of Alpha PVP, a chemical used in the manufacture of the latter drug, DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick said.
The seized items -- falsely labeled as "glass cleaner," "shoe deodorizer" or other innocuous-sounding products -- had a wholesale value of over $100,000 and were packaged in single-use amounts, according to Roderick.
Nationwide, about 90 people were arrested during the operation, more than 5 million packets of synthetic drugs were confiscated and in excess of $36 million in cash was seized.
Those who manufacture the illicit and dangerous substances are "specifically targeting the young people in our community," according to William Sherman, head of the DEA's local office.
"The operations that took place here in San Diego and nationally yesterday show the effort being made by DEA and all our law enforcement partners to address this emerging threat by hitting these synthetic-drug dealers at every level, from manufacturers to the (sellers), and keeping these extremely dangerous drugs off of our streets," Sherman said.
Marketed under names such as "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," "Vanilla Sky" or "Bliss," the products purportedly mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD, MDMA and methamphetamine.
In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to "spice" and "bath salts," according to federal officials. Last year, that figure jumped to more than 13,000. In 60 percent of the cases, the patients were 25 or younger.
Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects remain unknown.
The substances are sold at a variety of retail outlets and over the Internet, even though they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption.
Though many of the drugs are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act, a 1986 law allows them to be banned if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance.
Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the DEA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with assistance from Customs and Border Protection, the FBI, FDA, Internal Revenue Service and Postal Inspection Service, as well as state and local law enforcement personnel in more than 100 cities.