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Synthetic Drug Use on Dramatic Rise Nationwide

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Chemicals that imitate the properties of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine can create severe paranoia that may cause users to harm themselves or others.

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 8, 2012 -- The nation's emergency physicians are seeing an alarming increase in the amount of patients being treated in emergency departments for synthetic (or chemically enhanced) drug use. For example, in 2010, there were a little fewer than 2,900 calls to poison control centers regarding synthetic marijuana exposure.  That number nearly doubled in the first 8 months of 2011. 

 

"As emergency physicians, we witness first-hand how these dangerous synthetic drugs are harming users," said Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  "These products contain chemicals that imitate the hallucinogenic or stimulant properties of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine, which can create severe paranoia that may cause users to harm themselves or others."

One of the major concerns involves the use of so-called "bath salts."  Dr. Seaberg said to make no mistake, these are not actually bath salts or any type of bath products.  Their only known purpose is for consumption as a recreational drug.  These drugs are intentionally mislabeled by their manufacturers as "bath salts," "plant food," "air freshener," etc. in order to trick the purchaser into thinking the drugs are mild or innocuous.  In 2010, there were about 300 calls to poison control centers related specifically to bath salts.  In the first 8 months of 2011, that number was already more than 4,700.

Emergency physicians treat patients every day for a variety of different symptoms associated with synthetic drug use including, chest pain, elevated blood pressure, nausea, erratic heartbeat, agitation, paranoia, muscle breakdown and/or hypothermia. 

These bath salts can have very harmful effects on its users.  Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, extreme paranoia and violent episodes.  These synthetic drugs have been popular among teens and young adults, and are sold at retail outlets and over the Internet.  These drugs can also be highly addictive to its users.

The use of synthetic drugs have led to several tragic outcomes.  For example, there was a boy in Louisiana who snorted bath salts, spent the next few days experiencing intermittent psychotic episodes and resulted in him committing suicide.  In another case, there was a teen in Illinois who smoked synthetic marijuana and died when he drove his car into a house.  He crashed into the bedroom of a 2-year-old child, who, fortunately, was playing in the backyard at the time.

"We need lawmakers to take serious notice of what we are seeing in our emergency departments nationwide," said Dr. Seaberg.  "This synthetic drug problem is bad, it's getting worse, it's affecting our youth — killing many of them. We need to continue educating our children as to the severe dangers of these poisonous chemicals."

Several legislative proposals in the U.S. House and Senate would address the imminent and emergency threats posed by three classes of synthetic drugs.  These drugs have no medical benefit, are abused by adolescents and adults on an increasing and sometimes deadly scale.  Also, they are manufactured and distributed without adherence to any safety standards.

To set up an interview with a medical expert on the effects of synthetic drug use, please contact Mike Baldyga, ACEP Public Relations at (202) 728-0610, ext. 3005 or email at mbaldyga@acep.org.

For more information on synthetic drug use, bath salts and the pending federal legislation that would help control them, please visit www.ACEP.org.  For more information on this and other health-related topics, please visit www.EmergencyCareForYou.org.

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. 

 

 

 

SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

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