Synthetic drugs are not welcome here

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Headlines grab our attention and then are quickly forgotten with the delivery of the next day's news. With that in mind, I want to make sure a recent statement made by Sheriff Mick Epperly remains etched in the minds of our readers and citizens across the Barry County area.

Sheriff Epperly stated that the use of synthetic drugs, which include K-2 and bath salts, is on the rise locally. He also indicated that at least one death could be attributed to the ingestion of bath salts, which are not meant for human consumption.

The use of synthetic drugs has been making national news since they first appeared in the United States in 2008. Over the past several years, we've published a few stories about these dangerous drugs in an attempt to educate our readers about the latest drug trends. But now that the drugs are becoming readily available in our area, it's time citizens take note and take a stand.

K-2 and bath salts, which are sold as "herbal incense" and "plant food," are usually sold at convenience stores and are labeled "not for human consumption" in an attempt to hide the products' intended purpose.

It seems to me that the owners of the convenience stores that carry these products must know what they are selling if they place "not for human consumption" near the products. I contend store owners understand that people are using the items to get high, and despite this fact, they continue to sell these dangerous products to make a profit.

In particular, young people seem to be attracted to these synthetic drugs. According to prevention specialists, teenagers believe K2 is safe because it's sold at convenience stores. And it's this assumption that could turn deadly for those experimenting with the drugs.

Signs of synthetic drug abuse include agitation, excessive sweating, inability to speak, restlessness and aggression. The drugs also cause "euphoric and psychoactive effects" and can result in death.

Statistics on the use of synthetic drugs is alarming. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 6,959 calls relating to the use of synthetic marijuana were received in 2011 compared to 2,906 calls in 2010. The number of calls related to bath salt exposure increased from 304 in 2010 to 6,138 in 2011.

These drugs are far from harmless. In the past month, undercover drug officers cracked down on the sale of bath salts and K-2 at convenience stores in the Barry County area. According to Sheriff Epperly, some of the bath salts purchased by officers field tested positive for a derivative of cocaine.

I urge parents to talk to their children about this latest drug threat. I also encourage citizens to keep an eye out for stores that sell these substances. You have a right to question store owners about what they're selling, and if they continue to carry these dangerous products, I suggest shopping elsewhere. Banning a particular store because they sell K-2 or bath salts is a great way to send a message that Barry County will not tolerate any activity that poses a threat to our young people.

Lisa Schlichtman