From victim to medical practitioners to law enforcement, one theme was clear Thursday night during a two-hour program about synthetic drugs in Bowling Green: Not enough is known about this relatively new menace to our children.
Even with new local, state and federal laws enacted this year against synthetic drugs, those who make and those who market what might be called “7H,” “Mr. Happy,” “K2,” “K3,” “Wicked X,” “Happy Hour” or “Head Trip” – among many trade names – continue to create chemical combinations that can’t be detected by drug screens and can fly under the radar of vigilant parents.
As the number of chemical combinations grows, the cost of administering sophisticated drug tests to detect them increases from $2 a test to $40 a test, according to information presented.
The brightly colored packaging appears to target a young market and local surveys administered by Save Our Kids Coalition show at least three elementary students, several middle-school and many high school students don’t have a great fear of synthetic drugs and feel they can be obtained relatively easily, said Eric Gregory, executive director of the Save Our Kids Coalition. The 5,000-student survey is still being examined.
A victim got to tell her compelling story, an experience that taught her that just because you’ve graduated high school, you’re not invincible.
“For six hours I fought for my life,” said Ashley Stillwell, now studying psychology at Western Kentucky University. Ashley took a hit of then-legal substance 7H on Aug. 21, 2011, and became seriously ill.
“That night changed a whole lot of stuff in our family,” said her mother, Amy Stillwell, youth coordinator for the Save Our Kids Coalition, who has, among others, raised the profile of the danger of synthetic drugs in southcentral Kentucky.
“The Face of Synthetic Drugs Town Meeting’’ at Greenwood Park Church of Christ, 1818 Campbell Lane, drew about 40 people. Amy Stillwell said the program was videotaped to show to community groups who have an interest in the dangers of synthetic drugs.
“We’re still learning about it (synthetic drugs),” said Dr. Bart Spurlin, medical director of the emergency department for The Medical Center. “I’m not sure we know what the long-term effects will be.”
Spurlin said his ER sees a patient suffering the effects of synthetic drugs “about once every day.”
Last year, just under 200 calls statewide came into the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Centers about so-called bath salts, a form of synthetic methamphetamine, said Dr. George Bosse, medical director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Centers. More than 200 calls came in about synthetic marijuana, also called synthetic cannabinoid. Bosse said the centers receive upward of 40,000 patient exposure calls a year for all substances.
Bosse said synthetic drugs can induce strokes, heart attacks and death. For example, while actual marijuana is a more benign drug, synthetic marijuana taken by a person will result in stimulus that is more akin to cocaine ingestion – including high body temperature, low body temperature and a muscle breakdown process that can lead to kidney failure.
David Duncan, program manager of Park Place Recovery in Bowling Green said the use of synthetic drugs derails the effectiveness of helping longtime drug addicts in their treatment programs.
Sgt. Tod Young, assistant director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force, said investigators are finding synthetic drugs at the scenes of vehicle accidents and suicides. So-called “probation weed,” the synthetic marijuana, is in demand, he said.
“We had a line of people standing outside the Hookah Lounge waiting for us to get done with our search warrants,” Young said of earlier this year when a local ordinance made the substances illegal to buy or possess in Warren County.
The synthetic drugs business is lucrative, he said. Minnesota law enforcement officials ran across one operation pulling down $45,000 a week where the owner was happy to pay the $500-a-week fine, Young said.
— For more information on synthetic drugs, go to Facebook at The Face of 7H or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Save Our Kids Coalition, call 270-784-3727 or 202-5131.