Pete was a junior in high school when he first stepped into the local gas station, mumbled the password to the manager behind the counter, plunked down some cash, and walked away with a small bag of Florida Spice, a synthetic drug with marijuana-like effects.
Then he started to go every Wednesday. By his senior year, Pete frequented several times a week at several different stores. He never got caught; the managers came to recognize him, and he achieved a coolness factor among his friends.
By the time Pete graduated, he had also tried meth, cocaine, and heroin. In the process, Pete trenched his college savings, lost his job, and now lives outside the very gas station where he bought his first packet of Florida Spice.
What happened to Pete is nothing new: he is one of the thousands of teenagers who have been allured into the world of synthetic drugs.
WHAT ARE SYNTHETIC DRUGS?
Synthetic drugs are a group of drugs made by altering the chemical structure of pre-existing drugs. These drugs may produce similar effects to its mother drug, but their new chemical make-up exempts them from federal regulation. By continually changing the chemical formulations, synthetic drugs dealers manage to keep the drug legal.
And right now, synthetic drugs are changing too fast for regulators to outlaw them. In fact, so many new drugs are being created that there are now more synthetic drugs than the traditional controlled drugs.
“As soon as we make these things illegal, criminal organizations will go back and change one molecule. . . one molecule and it changes the entire drug. It changes the whole structure of the drug, so the drug becomes legal and we’re at it again,” –James Capra, DEA chief of operations, abcnews.
TEENAGERS ARE THE LARGEST USER POPULATION OF SYNTHETIC DRUGS
The most concerning problem is that the target user population of synthetic drugs is 12 to 17 year olds. Easy access, low detection rates on drug screening tests, and the misperception that these products are harmless all contribute to their popularity. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in nine high school seniors had used “Spice” or “K2” over the past year. Synthetic drugs are now the second most used substance among young people, only after marijuana.
MANY OF THE EFFECTS OF SYNTHETIC DRUGS ARE UNKNOWN
Sold in grocery stores, gas stations and other innocuous locations, synthetic drugs are disguised as incense or bath salts—and are often labeled “not for human consumption.” However, their psychoactive effect and unknown chemical additives make these drugs both unpredictable and dangerous. The medical and long term side effects of many of these drugs are still unknown.
SYNTHETIC DRUGS ARE NOT A NEW SENSATION BUT A GROWING PROBLEM
Although the spike of synthetic drug use is a recent concern, synthetic drugs are not a new sensation. Ecstasy (MDMA), PCP, and LSD were the earlier synthetic drugs, and methamphetamine and amphetamine are even older. These drugs are often classified as designer drugs, but with the introduction of newer formulations—Spice, Bath Salts, Smiles—all these classes of drugs are now grouped together as the “synthetics.”
The newest of these synthetic substances are becoming popular across the nation and their use is spreading rapidly—and not just among teens. From 2010 to 2011, the number of emergency room visits involving synthetic cannabinoid products more than doubled, and the number of calls related to bath salt exposure received by poison control centers increased more than 20 times.
These numbers tells us that the use of synthetic drugs not just a fad, but a problem that will continue to grow. The DEA and its partner agencies are targeting their efforts on this concerning trend, but the ever-changing nature of these drugs makes for a daunting task.
THERE IS NO SAFE ALTERNATIVE TO DANGEROUS DRUGS
Like Pete, many teenagers are searching for a safe alternative to traditional drugs, and synthetic drugs seem to fill the ballot perfectly. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that the synthetic drugs are just as dangerous as other drugs. The road of synthetic drugs can also lead to the addiction, health injury, relationship damage, and numerous other consequences.
The bottom line? There is no safe alternative to dangerous drugs. The only safe choice is to get clean.
If you or a loved one would like to learn more about the safest way to live a life free from drugs, please call a Duffy’s representative today (707-348-4874).