Column: Say no to synthetic drugsSynthetic drugs that have gained popularity probably because they are marketed as a “legal high” or as natural or herbal. Please don’t be fooled by this marketing.
By: Ann Busche, For the Budgeteer News
Each month, as I get ready to write this column, I always do some research. My two favorite sources are the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This month I wanted to focus on synthetic drugs but my two likely sources didn’t produce any scientific information. It seems a clinical study on the health impacts of these drugs, if there is one, is not readily accessible.
In my quest to use reliable sources, I turned to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, www.aapcc.org. It includes a fact sheet on synthetic marijuana and bath salts, two synthetic drugs that have gained popularity probably because they are marketed as a “legal high” or as natural or herbal.
Please don’t be fooled by this marketing. Users can experience dangerous and life threatening effects such as:
• Severe agitation and anxiety
• Paranoia and violent behavior
• Intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes
• Suicidal thoughts
• A variety of physical effects, such as nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms, tremors, seizures, racing heartbeats and increase blood pressure, and chest pain
It appears there isn’t good data of the effects on the brain or body from prolonged use, nor are there available studies on the risk of a developing baby should the mom use these drugs while pregnant. But common sense says long term effects cannot be good.
What is clear is that the number of visits to emergency rooms has increased as a result of these drugs. The unpredictable nature of how an individual user reacts is alarming. The news media is full of stories running the gamut from accidental deaths, suicidal deaths, vicious assaults on others, and the incident cited as “zombie cannibalism.”
At St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services, one way we feel the impact of these drugs is when parents of young children chose to use them. Among the real life stories from our area are parents using synthetics and hallucinating, resulting in a parent jumping out a second-story window causing serious injury while children were present. Another parent fought with an imaginary robber and latter suffered a self-inflicted wound on the head causing a laceration, again, with children present.
Another parent imagined being infested with lice and fleas, leading the person to shave completely to try to capture all the bugs while the children watched. And another parent was up for seven days straight, using synthetics before attempting a hanging, while yet another got out of a car, lay down on the ground and was foaming at the mouth while a child under 5 watched. These situations leave children scared, worried and confused.
Our child protection unit intervened in the cases described above. We believe that approximately 15 percent of our child protection cases are a direct result of synthetic use. The harm is not only to the children and their families, there is a financial impact as well. The cost of placing the child in a safe place, usually a foster care home, while we work with the parents on treatment and reunification is a county responsibility. If there cannot be successful reunification, a permanent living arrangement is made for the child away from the parent. As a mother, I cannot imagine choosing drugs over my child, but these incidents speak to the highly addictive nature of drugs.
Please don’t try these synthetic drugs, for your sake and for the sake of any children who count on you to be a stable, caring figure in their lives.
Ann Busche is the director of Public Health and Human Services for St. Louis County. Contact her at 726-2096 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.