Back in 1995 I handled cases in New Jersey regarding the nutrient DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone) generally considered the basis for the current legal status of DHEA. As the Judge in one of those case ordered:
"...that the Prosecutor... is hereby directed to forthwith return to the Defendant all of... her DHEA, a dietary substance, which is neither a prescription drug nor a controlled substance." Link
In 1995 the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) was a new and untried law. Many elements in the federal and state governments were still operating under the old assumption that "alternative" health modalities, including nutrient supplementation, were tantamount to fraud and needed to be suppressed in the public interest. This was never true in the first place, but rather the result of several generations of propaganda by certain groups in the illness industry. Today, with the changes that have been made in the AMA's Code of Ethics (Opinion 3.04, permitting cooperation between licensed physicians and alternative practitioners) in response to successful anti-trust lawsuits, such views have been fully discredited.
But, just a decade or so ago, such ideas were all too prevalent in some government circles. Thus, sometime in early '95 a rumor started, that the DEA was about to schedule DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone) as a controlled substance. No matter that DHEA, as a dietary substance, was protected by the new law; no matter that it did not meet the criteria for scheduling; no matter that no required hearings were held and that no notice had been published in the Federal Register -- just the rumor was enough for someone in the US Postal Service to send out a circular to local post offices that DHEA had been scheduled by the DEA.
Two Post Masters in New Jersey (the towns, counties and victims will remain unnamed to protect the defendants' privacy) realized that a 72 year old man in County B and a 30 year old woman in County M had ordered DHEA from Germany. The federal employees decided to act against the perceived public menace of lawful private importation for personal use; they independently contacted their local Narcotics Strike Forces. The narcs in each county set up a sting operation, waiting at the post offices until the offenders came to claim the "contraband."
While it now sounds funny in a Keystone Cops sort of way, to the victims it was not so funny. The elderly gentleman was handcuffed and forced to sit on the post office steps, where all his town neighbors could see him. The young woman was held while her home was searched and her library of health and exercise books seized.
Both victims, though, were members of the Life Extension Foundation, http://www.lef.org/ and asked for help. LEF retained me and provided the research that showed that DHEA was not a controlled substance and had never been so named in the Federal Register. Since the substance was not contraband, one would think that the charges would be quickly dropped. Well, the prosecutors were willing to "reduce" the charges, but admit they were prosecuting innocent people... Look, it's Drug War out there and there's going to be some collateral damage...
At that moment Dr. Julian Whitaker stepped in and publicized the cases in his newsletter. Ten thousand letters to Governor Whitman later and both county prosecutors wanted to drop the cases. They did so, and returned the defendants' DHEA and books!The judge in County M signed an Order which stated that DHEA was neither a controlled substance nor a prescription drug, but rather a dietary substance. That Order was not appealed. It was copied and faxed around the country, becoming the precedent for DHEA's availability as a dietary substance.
Now they are at it again!
My thanks to National Health Federal for the information below:
(Introduced in Senate, 110th Congress 1st Session)
Nutritional Supplements Under Congressional Assault Again
The legislation would ban the sale of dietary supplements containing DHEA as an ingredient to young adults. It would also require older adults to get a prescription and show identification to purchase these same supplement products. Supplements containing DHEA ingredients would be regulated like pharmaceutical drugs, despite their existing safe regulation under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).
Supplements containing DHEA as an ingredient have been sold freely for over twenty years. Natural DHEA is derived from a plant in the wild yam family, and has a naturally occurring hormone that has a proven scientific record of having a wide range of health benefits for older Americans and people with chronic conditions. DHEA may be helpful for such conditions as obesity, low libido, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Some in Congress now believe that an extract from a raw food, when processed into an ingredient used in a supplement, should be classified as an anabolic steroid, and regulated like a drug.
This legislation is a misdirected attempt to address the steroid-abuse problems of professional athletes and young adults. It would in no way address the problem of illegal anabolic steroid use. It does pose a serious and ongoing threat to consumers of dietary and nutritional supplements, if or when passed by Congress.