Science Fighting Synthetics | VideoRetha Colclasure | 12/7/2012
You probably haven`t come across some of those words since those dreaded high school chemistry classes, unless you`re a forensic scientist like Charlene Schweitzer.
"I analyze controlled substances. So the main part of my day is analyzing drugs," she said.
Specifically, synthetic drugs.
"What I love about my job is every day seems to be different. It doesn`t get routine because lately there are so many different drugs coming out. For awhile it seemed we were having a new unknown drug every week," she said.
Schweitzer is a North Dakota native with a degree in forensic science from UND. At just 30 years old, she says she doesn`t know how it happened, but she became one of the driving forces behind efforts to ban the synthetics.
"It feels good to try to help people understand this issue and how it`s such an epidemic because there`s so much unknown about this. The users themselves don`t even know what they`re actually ingesting. It feels good to help people and help society but it`s a scary and sad situation."
She started at the crime lab when she was 23, and is one of four drug chemists analyzing samples from law enforcement agencies across the state.
"Synthetics have overtaken our caseload."
Schweitzer has been dragging these charts around to legislative hearings and presentations to the Board of Pharmacy, helping those with the ability to make the laws understand what the substances are, and what makes them so dangerous.
"I`ve always liked science, but it`s so much better when you can apply it to the real life situations," she said.
While she`s using that science to fight back, the fact is that others are using that knowledge to make these substances in the first place.
"It`s really scary what knowledge can do. If some of these people would put their knowledge towards good we could come up with a whole set of drugs that would actually help the medical community."
In the meantime, she`s doing all she can to keep up with the compounds they`re creating, adding them to the charts and playing her part in fighting back.
The Board of Pharmacy recently enacted emergency legislation to ban the sale, use and distribution of different compounds and variations of those compounds often used in synthetic drugs. The Attorney General`s office is expected to introduce even more comprehensive legislation dealing with the drugs this upcoming session.