OSWEGO, NY – The abuse of ‘bath salts’ and other synthetic drugs is on the rise in the Oswego area.
To help educate the public as to what these substances are and what is being done to curb their use, Elim Grace Church hosted a representative from the Upstate Poison Control Center of Syracuse on Wednesday evening.
Lee Livermore providing a free educational seminar to educate the Oswego community on this epidemic.
Reverend Bill King welcomed the crowd of around five dozen.
“This past summer we had some interesting occurrences in our neighborhood,” he said. “We have college housing in the area so we are accustomed to some measure of noise. But at about 3 a.m. six weeks ago, there was some screaming and when I went down to investigate, there was a naked man running up the street.”
King said he was told later the person was arrested and had been under the influence of ‘bath salts.’
“That was the beginning of our exposure to the problem that is facing our community,” he said. “The goal posts have been moved; it is no longer the drugs of five years ago … it’s a very different scene.”
Livermore explained a little about Upstate Poison Control Center. It covers 54 counties upstate. The only other center covers New York City, Westchester County and Long Island.
The center is a telephone triage 24 – 7 – 365 operation that is staffed by experts, he noted.
According to Livermore, 60 percent of all the calls are in regard to children less than 5 years old who have suffered an “unintentional” poisoning.
However, calls about ‘bath salts’ and other synthetic drugs have risen sharply of late.
Synthetic basically means it is manmade, he explained.
“Designer drugs are specifically a category of drugs that are designed to bypass the law,” he said.
Manufacturers of the substances have been able to legally sell the product by continually changing its formula; as soon as one is banned, they just alter it slightly in essence creating an entirely new product.
And, in some cases, just by adding warnings like “Not For Human Consumption” to the package have allowed them to be sold over the counter, he added.
“Any street drug is never 100 percent pure,” he said.
One of the key reasons these drugs are out there is because people are making money off them, “They are making tons of money,” he continued.
Just because these drugs affect one person one way doesn’t mean it will be the same for the next person.
“Any time you’re messing with this, it’s like playing Russian Roulette,” he said. “Not a good game.”
Some of these drugs were originally developed as a potential drug to be used for AIDS and cancer patients, he pointed out.
“They were originally a research drug. But the differences to what’s happening with some of these is that most drugs that are researched go through lab testing, they’ll use mice or rats. In the case of designer drugs, that lab rats are human beings,” he said. “Which is the most horrible thing that you can imagine.”
Some of the “fake marijuana” currently on the streets is anywhere from 300 to 800 times more potent than what regular marijuana might be, he said. “The pot that is out there today is 20, 30, 40, 50 times more potent than the best stuff of the 1970s and 1980s,” he said.
There is no quality control associated with the production of these substances.
That is why potency can differ widely from pack to pack and brand to brand, he said, adding, “It’s not tested for safety at any level.
The emergence of these drugs pretty much caught everyone off guard, he admitted.
Everybody is different and so are their reactions to these materials, he said. They still don’t know enough about them, what many of them actually are, so that they can create an antidote.
“There is still a lot we don’t know. The best we can do in treating these patients now to sedate them, until it works itself out of their system. We can treat the symptoms and just have to let it run its course.”
He encouraged the audience to educate themselves and others, especially their children as to the harm these drugs can do.
“The best treatment is love. Give them a hug and sniff them like a dog,” he told the parents. “Have open and honest conversations about this stuff.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg, he cautioned.
Education is key, but so is stricter laws, he said.
“We need tougher laws so the people making, selling and using these products don’t get just a slap on the wrist,” he said. “These drugs are putting many people in harm’s way – first responders, police, the medical community, everybody.”
“Bath salts” has become a slang expression for man-made drugs, he said.
However, he noted, there have been cases where someone has snorted Epson salts.
Some reactions to ‘bath salts’ include agitation, severe paranoia, chest pains, high blood pressure and violent behavior.
The reactions to synthetic marijuana are similar. And in both cases, death is also a possibility.
In 2010 there were 10 calls to the center about synthetic marijuana cases. That jumped to 184 in 2011.
There were no calls about ‘bath salts’ in 2010 and 117 last year.
From June to August of 2012, there have been 333 calls, Livermore said.
To reach the Upstate New York Poison Center, call 1-800-222-1222.