U.S. scientists point to new class of deadly drugs - WNEM TV 5

U.S. scientists point to new class of deadly drugs

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(AP Photo/Cliff Owen). In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, a bag of 4-fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl, which was seized in a drug raid, is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen). In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, a bag of 4-fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl, which was seized in a drug raid, is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Va.
WASHINGTON (AP) -

The proliferation of rapidly evolving synthetic opioids has become so fierce that the Drug Enforcement Administration says they now constitute an entire new class of drugs. And those drugs are fueling the deadliest addiction crisis the United States has ever seen.

U.S. officials say the fentanyl-like drugs are pouring in primarily from China, but Beijing maintains that assertion has not been substantiated.

Laws cannot keep pace with the speed of scientific innovation. As soon as one substance is banned, chemists synthesize slightly different and technically legal molecules, and sell that substance online.

Forensic chemists at the DEA's Special Testing and Research Laboratory are on the front line of the war on drugs, teasing out molecular structures of mystery drugs so they can be named, tracked and regulated.

Click here for five things to know about America's synthetic-opioid epidemic.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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