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DEA: 31-state bust for bath salts, synthetic marijuana

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart announcing a nationwide bust for synthetic drugs, at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Va., Thursday, July 26, 2012 AP Photo/Cliff Owen

(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - More than $36 million in cash was seized and 91 people in 31 states were arrested in a nationwide crackdown on "designer drugs" such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts.

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 4.9 million packets of synthetic marijuana, as well as material to make 13.6 million more packages, said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. DEA and other law enforcement agencies also seized 167,000 packages of bath salts and materials to make an additional 392,000 packets.

Leonhart said the synthetic drugs are "marketed directly to teenagers." The drugs have become a popular alternative to traditional street drugs, but law enforcement and health professionals warned that the chemicals used to make them haven't been tested or approved for human consumption.

Agents raided smoke shops and other sellers of synthetic drugs that are linked to psychotic episodes and deaths of users. The synthetic marijuana is sold under brand names such as "K2" and "Spice."

The agency temporarily banned some of the chemicals found in synthetic marijuana, and President Barack Obama signed a measure this month that bans the sale, production and possession of many of the chemicals found in most popular synthetic drugs.

But experts who studied the drugs estimate that there are more than 100 different bath-salt chemicals circulating. Bath salts can mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.

Synthetic drug use has grown since the products were first introduced into the market a few years ago. Authorities say they are readily available for purchase in smoke shops and sometimes even corner gas stations, and at a relatively low price, and that's made them a popular alternative to street drugs.

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