Feb 9, 2012 1:45 AM by Ariel Wesler

Doctors warn about rising use of synthetic drugs

Emergency room doctors nationwide are reporting an alarming increase in the number of people being treated for synthetic drug use.

The American College of Emergency Physicians says in 2010, there were close to 2900 calls to poison control centers regarding synthetic marijuana alone. That number nearly doubled during the first 8 months of 2011, but
it's a synthetic drug similar to cocaine that has doctors especially worried.

For a while, it was a legal way for kids to get their fix before the federal government temporarily banned a few key ingredients last year. It's a powder doctors say has the power to kill.

If you search for "Where can I bath salts online?" you'll find a bunch of websites talking about drugs. These bath salts aren't meant simply to sooth.

"It's very dangerous that kids are doing this. It's kind of like making meth. They don't know what they're dealing with," said Kristy Straka of Morro Bay.

"Bath Salts" is the street named for the drugs, mephedrone and MDPV. The Drug Enforcement Agency temporarily banned them in September after a soaring number of teens were being hospitalized. However, by stating the drugs are "not for human consumption," sellers can get around federal law. You'll see the products labeled novelty powder sold under several different names. Some are legal, but it can be hard to tell. We found one website that says because it doesn't manufacture the products, it won't comment on the ingredients inside them.

"If that's the primary goal, that they're selling these bath salts, so that people can get high, then that's definitely something that shouldn't be happening," said Matt Garber of San Luis Obispo.

While the number of young people using the drugs is alarming to some, it didn't surprise this Straka.

"As the population gets bigger, there's going to be more and more people experimenting," she said.

Others attribute the growing hospital visits to poor parenting.

"It goes back to the parents. Parents aren't doing a good job and that's where it's coming from," said Dona Wruck of San Luis Obispo.

She says many young people don't realize the dangers until its too late.

"They're naïve and they follow what their friends are doing, until something bad happens, then they realize 'Oh, this is dangerous,'" she said.

Doctors say they have treated users for everything from impaired perception, extreme paranoia, and violent outbreaks. They say synthetic drugs have chemicals that imitate stimulants like marijuana, cocaine, and meth.

The DEA ban on mephedrone and MDPV will last until at least October. The agency is now working with the Department of Health and Human Services to study whether the chemicals should be permanently controlled.


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