Public health officials have increasingly been using the frightening term “epidemic” to describe the exploding popularity of a particularly dangerous class of drugs being circulated across northcentral Pennsylvania counties. Deaths, permanent mental disorders and risky – downright bizarre – behavior, especially among teenagers and young adults, has been attributed to the use of the readily available “21st Century Street Drugs.” That class includes a group of largely synthetic substances often referred to as bath salts, salvia, herbal incense and a variety of contrived marketing names.
“The use of these substances has reached epidemic proportions in Potter County,” reports Colleen K. Wilber, drug and alcohol program administrator at Potter County Human Services. To raise public awareness of the situation and train officials in law enforcement, health care and education on the complex issues, county officials have announced plans for a 90-minute program to be held at 6 pm on Wednesday, August 22, at the Gunzburger Building auditorium in Coudersport. Those attending should use the Water Street entrance.
Guest speaker will be Dustye L. Sheffer, BA, from Pyramid Health Care Inc. She’ll offer an overview of the latest trends in street drugs that are sometimes sold openly in convenience stores, gas stations and “head shops” across Pennsylvania, as well as the internet. Sheffer will also touch on laws affecting the marketing of these substances, as well as recent clinical information on signs and symptoms of substance abuse and resulting challenges faced by parents, police, emergency room staff, crisis workers, and psychiatric units. Wilber points out that individuals with addictions too often turn to whatever substances are available, regardless of the level of risk. Manufacturers and dealers have responded to growing market demand by finding inventive ways to skirt federal and state laws — altering their chemical compounds and shifting marketing strategies, or pulling their products from the shelves and infiltrating the traditional undergrounds narcotics trade. Addicts have sought out products manufactured and produced in China and India, marketed under deceptive descriptions such as “bath salts” or “plant food.”
The products are snorted, smoked, or injected, which has resulted in deadly or life-threatening situations. Side effects associated with the substances include irritability, delusional paranoia, aggression and psychotic behavior, accelerated heart rate, suicide, hallucinations, seizures, and even unexplainable murders. Another substance widely distributed locally is a potpourri product that is largely imported from China and sold as a marijuana substitute under brand names such as “K2” or “Spice.” A related product available on the streets is “salvia,” a naturally occurring plant used by some for its hallucinatory effects. Many of the brands or unlabeled concoctions available on local streets have been linked to symptoms such as hallucinations, vomiting, and schizophrenia.
For more information on Wednesday’s program, contact Potter County Human Services at (814) 544-7315.
Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.