Editor’s note: The following content, background of which will be self-explanatory, was submitted to Wrangler News in an effort to raise awareness of a dangerous trend that seems to be gaining momentum in our neighborhoods. While we do not typically publish material without identifying the author, we have verified the writer’s credentials and feel that using the name in this case might have undesirable results. We hope you understand—and ask that you take the warning seriously. This is a very real concern, not only in distant communities but in our own backyard.
I am a health care professional at a Valley hospital, and I want to share my observations regarding the potentially severe dangers of synthetic drugs that are legally being sold at local “smoke” or “head shops,” as they are commonly known.
These quasi-legal drugs, commonly known as spices, bath salts and K-2, can cause considerable danger to the public health, and in particular to our youth.
Although Arizona state law bans certain chemicals that are the key ingredients in so-called “synthetic drugs,” the manufacturers of these products have skirted the law by tweaking their formulas to be able to continue selling products that contain psychoactive chemicals that mimic the active ingredient in marijuana.
The shops where the compounds are sold are popular gathering spots for young folks after school. The legal age to purchase such products is 18, however a few minutes outside any such shop make it readily apparent that older teenagers purchase items and hand them off to others.
These synthetic drugs, which are usually smoked, can have a stronger effect than marijuana and are sometimes marketed as herbal incense or potpourri.
They are often labeled “not for human consumption” and sold in small plastic bags. They cause a temporally hallucinogenic or euphoric feeling, but the side effects can be devastating, including the need for the users, many of them young people, to be treated at hospitals. They also have been related to several deaths across the country.
Treatment centers around Arizona are seeing a dramatic increase in the use of synthetic drugs. Unfortunately, it is difficult to definitively test for these compounds as they don’t show up on a regular laboratory drug screen.
In Arizona, several hundred people have suffered kidney damage, breathing difficulties, seizures, rapid heart rate and extreme body temperature.
Some have reported suicidal thoughts and exhibited psychotic behaviors. Some have received kidney dialysis; others have been admitted to psychiatric facilities. Users can become violent and it can take a few days for patients to come out of their delusional state.
It is apparent that legislation, zoning and licensing restrictions have not altered the fact that legally licensed stores have been selling products that can cause damage to the health of our young people and the greater community.
Additionally, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cannot move fast enough to put these products on its emergency banned list.
As a parent and health care specialist in this community, I can no longer be silent.
In my professional capacity I have witnessed first-hand the psychotic behavior of the users and the devastation it can cause to families.
I am aware of its use in the local high schools and specific incidents regarding overdose. I want the community to be aware of the dangers of these substances.
Until there is legislation to deal with this problem, please talk to your children. One hospital visit is one too many.