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DEA Raids Target Synthetic Drugs' Makers And Sellers

Makers and sellers of synthetic drugs were targeted in at least 25 states Wednesday, as federal agents made arrests and conducted searches. Authorities say profits from the synthetics could be aiding terrorist and criminal groups in the Middle East.

The Drug Enforcement Administration used hundreds of warrants to target the supply and sales network of "bath salts" and other products that make up the synthetic drug trade, reports the AP, which says the agents are acting on at least 66 cases.

DEA investigators say hundreds of millions of dollars in drug profits are being routed to countries such as Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

"The money is going there, where it stops we don't know," the DEA's Special Operations Division staff coordinator Ferdinand Large tells the AP.

The agency is "broadly focused on Chinese chemical manufacturers and the distributors, wholesalers and retailers" here in the U.S., the AP says, citing Large. Today's activities were reportedly limited to U.S. targets.

If any convictions emerge from today's synthetic drug operation, the penalties levied could be stiffer than they would have been earlier this year.

In March, the DEA placed 10 synthetic cathinones, the technical name for bath salts, into its Schedule I class of drugs, which includes LSD and heroin. A month earlier, the agency took the same step for synthetic cannabinoids, which are similar to marijuana's active ingredient, THC.

The agency said those drugs are sold under "hundreds of different brand names, including 'Spice,' 'K2,' 'Blaze,' 'Red X Dawn,' 'Paradise,' 'Demon,' 'Black Magic,' 'Spike,' 'Mr. Nice Guy,' 'Ninja,' 'Zohai,' 'Dream,' 'Genie,' 'Sence,' 'Smoke,' 'Skunk,' 'Serenity,' 'Yucatan,' 'Fire,' and 'Crazy Clown.'"

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.