The number of people who have been treated for symptoms related to synthetic weed and cocaine in the first three months of this year is almost half as many people treated in all of last year.
At the request of the AP, the American Association of Poison Control Centers analyzed nationwide figures on calls related to synthetic drugs. The findings showed an alarming increase in the number of people seeking medical attention.
At least 2,700 people have fallen ill since January, compared with fewer than 3,200 cases in all of 2010. At that pace, medical emergencies related to synthetic drugs could go up nearly fivefold by the end of the year.
“Many of the users describe extreme paranoia,” said Dr. Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center. “The recurring theme is monsters, demons and aliens. A lot of them had suicidal thoughts.”
The recent surge in activity has not gone unnoticed by law enforcement and elected officials.
The Drug Enforcement Administration recently used emergency powers to outlaw five chemicals found in synthetic pot, placing them in the same category as heroin and cocaine.
But manufacturers are quick to adapt, often cranking out new formulas that are only a single molecule apart from the illegal ones.
On Wednesday, the Senate’s Caucus on International Narcotics Control held a hearing in Washington to discuss curbing the growth of synthetics.
“This is a whole new method of trafficking,” testified Joseph T. Ranznazzisi, deputy assistant administrator in the DEA’s office of diversion control. “We’ve never experienced this before, when the product is just on the shelf.”
Rozga implored lawmakers to act swiftly to prevent more deaths: “We are not doing enough, and we are not moving quickly enough.”
In the United States, fake marijuana was last year’s big seller, marketed under brands such as “K2″ or “Spice.” This year, the trend is “bath salts” with names like “Purple Wave” and “Bliss.”
Besides being cheap and easily obtained, they do not show up in common drug tests.
Synthetic marijuana typically involves dried plant material sprayed with one of several chemical compounds, most of which were created by a Clemson University scientist for research purposes in the 1990s. The compounds were never tested on humans.
It’s packaged to look like pot, and users typically smoke it, but experts say the high is more comparable to cocaine or LSD.
The bath salts are crystalized chemicals that are snorted, swallowed or smoked. They contain two powerful stimulants: methylenedioxypyrovalerone (or MDPV) and mephedrone, which mimic cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.
So far in 2011, poison control centers have received nearly 1,300 calls about synthetic pot, compared with 2,874 calls for all of last year, according to the poison control center data.
Poison calls for bath salts rose at an even greater rate. The centers took 301 calls in all of 2010, but had more than 1,400 for the first three months of 2011. Most of the calls came from doctors and nurses reporting patients in emergency rooms.
The moral of the story here kids: any drug somebody has to MAKE can potentially kill you. SMH.