A North Tonawanda man’s home was searched by federal investigators in recent weeks, apparently on suspicion of possessing or distributing a foreign recreational drug linked to at least one death near Atlanta.
Phenazepam, thought to be produced in Russia, is so far a legal substance since it hasn’t yet been legally categorized.
North Tonawanda Police Chief Randy Szukala confirmed investigators with the Food and Drug Administration visited the city but that local authorities are not overseeing the ongoing case.
No local arrests have been made surrounding the unclassified substance believed to have been sold over the Internet by a man on Goundry Street, as well as likely others throughout the U.S.
“They call it an unlicensed pharmaceutical,” Szukala said. “They don’t consider it a drug but they consider it some type of pharmaceutical that you can’t legally ship from one place to another.”
He said he is not aware of any common street name for the substance.
The FDA’s criminal investigation division could not be reached for comment Monday.
The street drug some say is commonly snorted is not fully known in the eyes of the law. Szukala said currently, local officials cannot specifically charge an individual simply for possessing it.
Police are monitoring any local involvement surrounding the drug. A search warrant appears to have turned up a substance that has since been sent to a laboratory for testing.
“It’s a federal case,” Szukala said. “There is a known prevalence of it throughout the U.S. Different state legislatures are looking at some kind of classification of it.
“There have been some substances (where) we’re waiting on lab results — we’re waiting to see if it has any connection to the FDA investigation,” he said. “We’re going to send it to get tested and if it turns out to be this substance there really isn’t a charge for us to arrest anyone on,” he said.
Any motorist found to be impaired, regardless of the substance, can still be charged.
A story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published Sept. 20 deals with the apparent Phenazepam-related death of an 18-year-old Cherokee County man. The paper reported the drug is used in the former Soviet Union to treat neurological disorders including epilepsy. Kevin Lewis apparently died and three of his friends were hospitalized for days after ingesting the drug, which is not licensed for use in the United States. The article reports one of those who took the drug apparently bought it online, though it has not been confirmed whether the sale involved anyone from North Tonawanda.
The paper reported side effects including dizziness, loss of coordination, drowsiness and amnesia associated with the drug.
October 18. 2010
By Neale Gulley
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phenazepam - NT man involved in drug probe