Weeks after a public meeting spotlighted the growing presence of synthetic drugs in the region, a group of local leaders is coming together to address the implications. A drug identification specialist from the Pennsylvania State Police will lead a workshop this week for treatment specialists, educators, law enforcement personnel and other officials. They’re convinced that education holds the best hope of reversing a trend of substance abuse that’s increasingly evident in Potter County. Focus is on a particularly dangerous class of drugs which are linked to deaths, permanent mental disorders and risky behavior, especially among teenagers and young adults. These substances are widely available, largely synthetic concoctions often referred to as bath salts, herbal incense and a variety of contrived marketing names. Potter County Drug & Alcohol Services and area police confirm that they are seeing cases of at-risk individuals who have used ingested the synthetic substances on a weekly basis.
Manufacturers and dealers have responded to growing 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 underground narcotics trade. Addicts have sought out products marketed under deceptive descriptions such as stain remover, plant food, glass cleaner, air freshener, carpet fragrance, massage powder, gourmet energy cookies and more. The products are snorted, smoked, or injected, which has resulted in deadly or life-threatening situations. Side effects include irritability, delusional paranoia, aggression and psychotic behavior, accelerated heart rate, suicide, hallucinations, seizures, random violence and even death. Short- and long-term mental and physical health impacts of ingesting these substances are not known, as research is lacking.
The lure of high profits has created a worldwide marketplace making the street drugs available to anyone with an internet connection or a neighborhood supplier. Passing laws prohibiting the products is futile, officials say, since suppliers can merely repackage the substance under another brand name and description and continue production.
A local school superintendent reported that, although some students may be using synthetics, a more serious problem seems to be the widespread trafficking and use of prescription drugs in public schools.
Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.