(Amanda Hara) NASHVILLE, Tenn. - They are packaged in a way that makes you think you're buying incense or plant food. But the reality is, synthetic drugs can pack as much punch as one hit of cocaine. With so many variations out there, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation drug lab is creating new programs to keep track of them all.
Instead of simply testing synthetic drugs that are submitted by police, TBI scientists are going one step further. The extra step they said is necessary to keep tabs on all the different types of synthetic drugs that are being made.
Inside TBI's drug lab, you will find all the usual suspects. Materials resembling marijuana, cocaine, and meth all in need of testing for evidence.
But every few years something new shows up in front of Special Agent Forensic Scientist Laura Cole. Recently, it's been synthetic drugs.
Like everything else inside the lab, the materials are tested for a positive ID.
But unlike pot, cocaine or meth, the synthetic drugs are then cataloged in a database.
With so many variations on packaging, names, and chemical compounds, the TBI saw a need to keep track so that both police and the public know what's out there.
"There's no quality control so you don't know actually what you're taking. One young adult was actually put in a nursing home where she's going to be for the rest of her life," Forensic Scientist and Supervisor Glenn Everett said.
TBI officials said that identifying all the different types of synthetic drugs will actually help create more laws against them.
The TBI started cataloging all types of synthetic drugs back in October 2011. Since then, some 275 variations have been added and the number is growing everyday.
*This story was originally published earlier in 2012, by News Channel 5.