A product marketed on the Internet as a relaxing air freshener contains a prescription tranquilizer similar to Valium and Xanax.
Louisiana Poison Center Director Mark Ryan is investigating the product, Zannie Air Freshener, which was linked to two overdose deaths in the United States in 2010.
Ryan ordered the product and had the North Louisiana Crime Lab test it. The testing showed the product contains a substance identical to phenazepam, a drug that acts as a central nervous system depressant.
He's awaiting test results to show how the amount of drug in the product compares with standard doses of phenazepam and similar types of drugs.
"It could have some really bad effects if a person takes it with other central nervous system depressants," Ryan said.
Ryan is concerned that the product could be used as a date rape drug. Phenazepam creates a type of sedation in which a person can't remember what happened.
It's in the same broad class of drugs used to relax patients before or during surgery. Zannie comes in a 3-inch-long, slim spray bottle that could be concealed in the palm of a person's hand.
Ryan will ask lawmakers to add the chemical compound in Zannie to the state's list of banned natural and synthetic drugs.
That would make it illegal to sell or possess Zannie. The state Legislature took the same approach with synthetic marijuana, marketed as K2 and Spice, and lab-created stimulants marketed as bath salts and plant food.
Like the other synthetic drugs, Zannie bears the warning, "Not for human consumption."
However, Ryan said photos and videos at the online sales sites show people spraying it into their mouths. The directions specify three or four sprays "in the area" and warn people not to use it again for 48 hours.
"Those are 'clue directions,'" Ryan said. "They speak in riddles and codes."