Free Advice

Synthetic Drugs: A Real Problem

Everyone is aware of the existence of illegal drugs in our society. We hear about drug raids that remove thousands, even millions, of dollars of drugs from the streets. Sadly, it happens so often that we have become familiar with names of the drugs being seized: marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and others.

But there are new, lesser known synthetic drugs that are becoming a serious problem in our communities. These drugs have been slipping through the cracks in the law by using formulas that contain “legal” ingredients. They are sold as harmless potpourri and incense, and even marked “not for human consumption,” but are nonetheless extremely dangerous for those who take them.

Synthetic cannabinoids are substances that are designed to affect the body the same way that marijuana does, but they are not derived from the plant. Users are looking for effects similar to the illegal drug, but instead often experience psychotic effects such as seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, tremors and, recently, death.

Some of the most disturbing news about these drugs is that they are being marketed to young people and sold to children as young as 12 years old in gas stations, convenience stores and online. While some go by names such as K2 and Spice, others are sold in brightly colored packages with names that sound harmless such as Scooby Snax, ½ Baked Hulk, and Purple Flake.

In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that synthetic cannabinoids were responsible for 8,557 Emergency Department visits from patients ages 12-29, with 3,780 of those by children 12-17 years old.

There is some good news. With the help of Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, there has been a crackdown on the selling and distribution of these synthetic drugs in recent months. In an emergency rule, Bondi outlawed 22 of the new synthetic drugs in December 2012.

However, the problem is far from a final resolution. With so many of these synthetic drugs using “legal” formulas, we are likely to continue to see new ones appear on the streets. Parents should take the time and speak to their children about the dangers of these drugs. If anyone suspects an establishment of selling synthetic drugs, they should contact the police immediately.