Poison Prevention

Synthetic Drugs – Dangerous and Deadly

Photo courtesy of the Bangor Police Department

As if parents don’t have enough to worry about! Two new synthetic drugs are proving dangerous and deadly to our children.

Called “synthetic marijuana” and “bath salts,” both have been marketed as legal equivalents to illegal drugs. But both cause alarming side effects that are generating a slew of calls to poison centers and spurring concern among doctors across the U.S.

America’s 57 poison centers first started getting calls about “synthetic marijuana” in late 2009. During 2010, they received 2,915 calls about these new products. And from January 1 to September 30 this year, they’ve received 5,083 calls. 

The synthetic marijuana products sell for between $30 and $40 per 3-gram bag, in packages labeled as incense or potpourri and marketed under brand names like “Spice,” “K2,” “Genie,” “Yucatan Fire,” “Sence,” “Smoke,” “Skunk” and “Zohai.” 

Synthetic marijuana causes vomiting, hallucinations, racing heartbeat and elevated blood pressure. 

Late last year, poison centers began to receive calls about products marketed as “bath salts” sold both on the Internet as well as in gas stations and head shops. Packaging is usually a plastic bag filled with a white granular powder. The products are known as “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,” “Bloom,” “Cloud 9,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Wave,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface” and “Hurricane Charlie.” 

Poison centers took 303 calls about bath salts in 2010; between January 1 and Sept. 30, 2011, the number of calls had jumped to 5,226. 

Bath salts cause increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions. 

Many states have passed laws to make bath salts and synthetic marijuana illegal, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has banned the chemicals used to make these dangerous drugs.

 The American Association of Poison Control Centers wants parents to know just how dangerous these drugs are. Here are a few tips on what they are and the dangers surrounding them:

  • Be on the lookout for these products in your child’s bedroom and backpack. Be particularly skeptical of items labeled “incense” or “bath salts.”
  • Know the signs and symptoms that someone is using these drugs, such as paranoia, changes in personality, agitation and anxiety.  
  • Talk with your child about the dangers of these products. These drugs are not a “safe” or harmless alternative to other drugs. They can cause hallucinations and agitation. In the case of bath salts, for example, poison center experts report instances of severe paranoia that has caused users to harm themselves and others.
  • Keep your poison center’s number near your phone: 1-800-222-1222. Call right away if you think your child has been exposed to these or any other drugs.

 The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Poison centers offer free, private, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take calls in more than 150 languages and from the hearing impaired.

For questions about poison or if you think someone has been exposed to a poison, call 1-800-222-1222 to reach your local poison center.

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