Chemist Arthur Berrier has the same routine day after day. Secluded inside a heavily guarded federal lab in Virginia, he searches for the new mix of substances to alert the investigators before it's too late.
In this constant game of catch up, the drug creators are always remaining one step ahead. Manufacturers of these illegal drugs have an endless choice of chemicals to create a new addiction.
The names and bizarre mixes of substances contained in drugs are in constant change. This makes state or federal bans against them weak and hard to come by.
Police departments in places swamped with the drugs problems say they lack the resources or the expertise to respond to problems.
"For us, this is just getting bigger and bigger," Thomas Duncan, Berrier's boss at the Virginia research lab said. "We had no idea."
Sadly, many researchers believe the war on synthetic drugs is something that can't be arrested or legislated away, the Star Tribune Reports.
Experts believe that it will require a multi-pronged effort that relies heavily on education, prevention and public awareness.