Do synthetic drugs harm teeth?More than 50 people gathered at Clyde Iron Works to watch the premiere of Jonathan Bothun’s documentary “Ground Zero: Duluth’s Battle Against Synthetic Drugs” Monday, June 24.
By: Clara Hatcher, Duluth Budgeteer News
More than 50 people gathered at Clyde Iron Works to watch the premiere of Jonathan Bothun’s documentary “Ground Zero: Duluth’s Battle Against Synthetic Drugs” Monday, June 24.
The documentary covered the extremes of what the drugs can do, but the long-term mental and physical effects are still widely unknown. Dental health is a particular concern.
“Because synthetic drugs are still relatively new to our area, when we see patients it is hard to identify a connection,” said Dr. John Wainio.
Wainio is a dentist at Summit Dental in Duluth. He is a member of several committees fighting to control the abuse of narcotics and prescription drugs.
“In a dental setting, I think that it will take some time to see the effects of the drugs on a person’s teeth,” Wainio said. “My feeling is that the synthetic drugs will mimic other types of drugs, such as methamphetamines, which will make a person’s mouth very dry and have a very noticeable effect on their teeth.”
Users of the synthetic drugs have often been admitted to the emergency room for hallucinations, mental disorientation and often violent behavior.
Paul Sanford, previously chief of staff of internal medicine at St. Luke’s, said that patients who abuse the drugs will often take it out on themselves.
“Certain patients admitted often have issues with things such as their eyes or their teeth when they are still under the influence of the drug,” Sanford said. “One guy decided that his teeth felt too weird, so he tried to pull them out, right in the hospital.”
In the documentary and in frequent interviews in the Duluth News Tribune, Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson, who has been selling synthetic drugs at the downtown shop for several years, said that what he was doing was legal and he did not see a reason why the selling of synthetics should cease.
The legality of synthetic drugs is debated. Despite city ordinances and state laws seeking to end the sale of the drugs, Carlson maintains that the selling of the drug is still legal due to a constant evolution of drug structures.
A drug will change if even one molecule is switched.
“The city definitely needs to find a way to shut down the whole operation,” Sanford told the Budgeteer. “The worst thing to decide with real drugs is what kind of Doritos to eat; with the synthetics, everything is so much worse.”
Since Duluth’s war on synthetic drugs commenced, more locals and officials have been seeing up close what the drug can do.
Nick Lepak, a police officer who patrols at the Last Place on Earth, said that he had been witnessing what has been happening to users for three years, and still no one knows what it can fully do to a person.
“It seems to have very sad long-term effects on people. They have dramatic weight loss, decaying teeth and heavy emotional issues,” Lepak said. “I know that the police force and the rest of Duluth will keep doing all we can to shut it all down.”