Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NYS DOH Issues New Regs On Synthetic Drugs And Bath Salts

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has issued new regulations to crack down on the increasingly widespread use of bath salts and other synthetic drugs.

The new regulations, issued recently by DOH and approved by the Public Health and Health Planning Council, will expand the existing list of prohibited drugs and chemicals to include dozens more substances that are now used to make synthetic drugs, better ensuring that distributors can no longer skirt the law by simply modifying the ingredients. In addition, the regulations will allow for the first time an owner of an establishment and/or an employee selling synthetic drugs to be charged with possession of an illicit substance. Further, to support enforcement, the regulations will increase the criminal penalties for those who violate the rules. Violators will face fines up to $500 and potentially up to 15 days in jail.

Over the past year, there has been a dangerous rise in instances of New Yorkers using synthetic drugs. In 2011, there were 39 reported emergency room visits in upstate New York as a result of bath salts. Already in 2012, there have been 191 such visits with 120 occurring this past June and July. According to the New York State Poison Control Center, in 2010 there were only 20 calls concerning synthetic marijuana poisonings. There were 291 in 2011, and there were already 321 through the first six months of 2012.

Bath salts and other synthetic drugs are manufactured with a similar, but slightly modified structure of controlled substances that are listed on Schedule I of the state and/or federal controlled substances laws as a means to avoid existing drug laws. These designer drugs can be - and are - continually chemically modified in the attempt to avoid legal repercussions.

In an effort to mask their true purpose, these products are marketed as "bath salts" or as "legal alternatives to marijuana." They are currently sold online, in small convenience stores, smoke shops, and other retail outlets. When consumed, these substances produce dangerous effects similar to cocaine and amphetamines, including hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior as well as chest pains, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rates.

Bath Salts are sold under names including, White Lightning, Snow Leopard, Tranquility, Zoom, Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Vanilla Sky, and others. Synthetic marijuana is sold as Spice, K2, Blaze and Red Dawn X among other names.

Although federal law bans the manufacture or sale of many of these substances, as a result of the new regulations put in place today, local law enforcement officials for the first time will be able to pursue perpetrators under state laws and refer violators to local District Attorneys for prosecution.

The State Health Department and the New York State Police will coordinate investigations and arrests with local law enforcement and district attorneys. New criminal penalties will include a fine up to $500 and or up to 15 days in jail. New civil penalties will include a fine of up to $2,000 per violation.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Open House & Ribbon Cutting

GCASA moved the Orleans County office from 438 West Avenue to 249 East Avenue, Albion...literally, down the road. The new office is the old Knights of Columbus building.  If you would like to see what the office building looks like, how it was rennovated, meet the people responsible for the new design or the GCASA staff who work in the building, come to the open house on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 anytime from 4-6:00 pm.  Refreshments and tours will be available. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

September is Recovery Month

The month of September brings to mind back to school, football, the beginning of apple season and for those of us working in the addictions field, Recovery Month.  The NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) sponsors a Recovery Fine Arts Festival with multiple categories for individuals in recovery to submit their work.  A couple of years ago a Batavia resident was recognized for a poem she wrote and submitted.   Visit the OASAS website if you would like to sumbit a piece to this year's festival.  Recovery can be a long process - releasing one's creative energy can be theraputic and rewarding. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Genesee County Drug Free Communities Coalition - Appreciation Night at the Ball Park

You know GCASA has a Drug Free Communities Coalition that boasts over 100 members all working to reduce or prevent underage drinking and drugging, right?  Coalition members partner with each other and GCASA to implement programs and activities that have proven results.  School personnel, law enforcement, business leaders, health care providers, parents and human service providers are part of the Genesee County DFC Coalition.   If you are a member of the coalition, this is for you.  If you're not a member, we'd love to see you that night so we can tell you a little bit about our work to make our community healthier and safer.  Join us on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at Dwyer Stadium for a picnic supper and Muckdogs game.   Cost for the game and dinner is $7.00.  Dinner is at 6:00 pm and the game is 7:05 pm.  Call Diane Klos in GCASA's Prevention Program at 815-1883 to make your reservation.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Susceptibility and Availability - How synthetic drugs are impacting addiction and recovery in our community

                 It has long been known that those who are susceptible to drug addiction need to find a way to reduce their availability to their drug of choice to achieve a state of recovery.  People who suffer from addiction often relapse when drugs are readily available or when they have not had enough clean time to develop coping mechanisms to refuse drugs when offered.  Through law enforcement, education and building coalitions, our community has done a great job with limiting the availability of illegal drugs and a curtailing underage drinking.  Until recently, we seemed to have a handle on how to manage drug abuse in our community. 
So what’s changed?  K2 and Bath Salts –synthetic drugs, the proverbial new kid on the block has us baffled a bit - and for good reason. 
K2, a synthetic cannabis, packaged in colorful small envelopes and labeled not for human consumption, is a psychoactive designer drug derived of natural herbs sprayed with synthetic chemicals that when consumed allegedly mimic the effects of cannabis. It is best known by the brand names K2 and Spice, both of which have largely become generic-type trademarks used to refer to any synthetic cannabis product and sell for $30 to $40 per bag. 
K2 use can produce symptoms of anxiety, rapid heart rate, dangerously high blood pressure, vomiting, severe paranoia and hallucinations. The user is not mellow, but sometimes delirious and in an anxious or agitated state. Initial studies are focused on the role of synthetic cannabis and psychosis. It seems likely that synthetic cannabis can precipitate psychosis and in some cases it is prolonged. These studies suggest that synthetic cannabis intoxication is associated with acute psychosis, worsening of previously stable psychotic disorders, and also may have the ability to trigger a chronic (long-term) psychotic disorder among vulnerable individuals such as those with a family history of mental illness. The scary things about this drug is you never know exactly what you’re getting, even with experimental users there are cases of severe lung disorders and even death.
Bath Salts are a synthetic amphetamine that mimics crystal-meth, cocaine or ecstasy and is a fine white or light brown powder sold in local Head shops or on-line for $25-$50 per 50 milligram bag.  Bath salts can cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, mild to extreme agitation, mild to extreme weight loss, insomnia, small sores on arms and face, severe itching, hallucinations, increased body temperature, profuse sweating, extreme paranoia, delusions and suicidal thoughts.  Locally, we have had several incidents of erratic behaviors caused by ingestion of bath salts.  Compounds found in bath salts can quickly cause the user to crave re-use of the substance, even when they can articulate the use to be harmful or when they have had unpleasant experiences with the substance.  The high can last from 3 to 4 hours, with the after effects of tachycardia, hypertension, panic attacks and over all agitation lasting for several days after use.  This is a very dangerous substance, which can be manufactured in combination with several other chemicals.  Like designer drugs the user will never really know what they are ingesting and like K2, even experimental use could be harmful or fatal.
The FDA Safety and Innovation Act banning 31 synthetic drugs was signed by President Obama on July 9th, 2012.  However, without the assistance of the federal DEA, the ban leaves local law enforcement unable to enact or enforce the ban .  Moreover, there are still a potential 81  additional chemicals that need to be banned to prohibit manufacturer’s from changing the compounds as a way of getting around the laws.  In other words, manufacturer’s can switch to one of the current 81 chemicals not on the list to render the substance legal again.
Our local community (service providers & law enforcement) has already taken steps to learn more about how to manage individuals under the influence and be able to offer effective treatment when an individual becomes addicted.  Even with the  provisions of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, I believe these substances are going to be available for the long term.  These are not drugs manufactured in some backroom; they are mass produced in China, India and other countries and shipped worldwide.  There will be plenty of supply, whether it is sold legally at head shops or on the black market.  Reducing availability of these substances regionally will require a grass roots community effort.
If you are interested in this topic and want to make a difference, please consider joining our coalition for a Drug Free Community.  By: John Bennett