It comes wrapped in packages the size of large tea bags and is trafficked under innocent-sounding names like incense or potpourri.
But it ranks among the most dangerous drugs on the market today, even if you can legally purchase it.
Synthetic marijuana, which was relatively unknown a few years ago, has become the drug of choice for a growing number of Minnesotans, particularly young users who may not be familiar with the health hazards it poses. It’s reach has extended to the Iron Range, where law enforcement and school officials are seeing more and more evidence of the drug’s impact on young lives.
Part of the drug’s allure is that it produces a more powerful buzz than marijuana. It also can’t be detected in common drug tests and the odor of the drug can be masked by other scents, such as strawberry, that make it difficult to detect in public settings.
The drug’s added potency, however, increases the risk of dangerous side effects. The drug is so strong the body reacts as if it is overdosing, resulting in an accelerated heart beat and high blood pressure. That can lead to a stroke or cardiac arrest, and some users have also developed a psychosis, withdrawing from their family and friends, becoming paranoid or exhibiting classic signs of schizophrenia.
And it’s happening here. The Timberjay spoke with one local woman, recently of Tower, whose son has become addicted to the drug and whose nephew suffered a seizure and now needs a kidney transplant as the result of the damage to his organs.
Her story reveals the dangers of synthetic pot and underscores the need for greater education about its dangers. A number of area schools, including the North Woods School, are taking steps to inform students and parents about the risks involved with synthetic drugs. This week’s story in the Timberjay is also aimed at making more people aware of the presence of synthetic marijuana and its debilitating effects.
While such dangerous substances are typically outlawed in the U.S., the nature of this synthetic drug makes that more difficult than in the past. Several states have taken steps to ban the product and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has also tried to curb its production by outlawing some of the compounds used to manufacture the drug.
But manufacturers of the drug can often evade such measures, by tweaking their recipes to circumvent the law. States and the DEA need to find a way to prevent the sale of the drug that keeps it from being available legally.
Until that solution arrives, medical professionals and law enforcement officials say its critical that people stay informed about the drug and understand the horrifying consequences that can result from using it. There is a wealth of material on the drug and its side effects available on the Internet, including the classic signs that might indicate your child is using synthetic drugs. Get informed, stay vigilant and help keep your family from a tragedy waiting to happen.