Tahlequah Daily Press

September 30, 2013

Farmer: Synthetic drugs not 'emerging' problem

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Near the start of the new school year, the Oklahoma Poison Center cautioned parents and educators to be aware of two drugs which “emerged in 2010” and are gaining popularity with young people.

The substances cited were synthetic drug products which go by many names, such as “spice,” and stimulants-hallucinogens often called “bath salts.”

“Actually, we have been seeing those substances for many years,” said Cindy Farmer, director of the Cherokee County Juvenile Drug Court.

“People are simply gaining more awareness of their presence.”

Farmer cited awareness as the reason synthetic drugs, such as spice, seem not to be gaining further popularity in Cherokee County.

“We can only make estimates based on what we can test for, but I do think usage is down,” she said.

“Law enforcement has been diligent in its efforts, and two local stores which sold synthetic drugs are no longer operating.”

As part of its efforts to reduce consumption and enhance awareness of synthetic drugs, the CCJDC encourages local businesses to establish “Syn Free Zones.”

“The business supports our fight, and agrees not to sell or promote such products,” Farmer said. “We ask for a non-mandatory $20 donation each year, and the business gets a sticker to place in a front window.”

Also proving effective against synthetics is the work of the District 27 Drug Task Force.

“It includes Cherokee County deputies and officers of the Tahlequah Police Department,” Farmer said.

“It allows us to take a collaborative approach from the law-enforcement perspective.”

Legal availability is the greatest problem in combating synthetic drug products.

Legislation exists banning many synthetics, but manufacturers simply adjust or create new compounds which are not banned.

Most products are sold with no testing, and by packaging them as “not for human consumption,” oversight by the FDA is avoided.

The Oklahoma Poison Center reports that synthetic drug products are often sold labeled as potpourri or incense, but have been sprayed with chemicals.

Aggression and severe paranoia leading to violent behavior can result.

The drugs known as “bath salts” are stimulants similar to methamphetamine, and may cause hallucinations.

Packaging of the drug may suggest the powder is insect repellent, plant food, screen cleaner or toilet deodorizer.

The drugs can cause violent behavior and raise body temperatures to dangerous levels.

The drugs also can cause seizures, heart problems and severely elevated blood pressure. In some cases, kidney failure has been reported.

When assisting someone suspected of drug overdose, call 911. If no phone is available, get the person to the emergency rooms of Tahlequah City Hospital or W.W. Hastings Hospital.

The Oklahoma Poison Center offers information about drug abuse symptoms and advice on treatment, and can be contacted at 1 (800) 222-1222.