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

1 comment:

David G. Markham said...

Excellent article. Thanks very much. Deserves wider circulation.