The score on synthetics
They are marketed toward teens and young people. They can cause hallucinations and psychotic breakdowns. They can cause suicidal behavior. They can cause death. In some cases they have caused such things as murder, self-mutilation and cannibalism.
Today, Washington County Sheriff’s detective Eric Weber met with members of the Washington County SAFE Coalition to discuss the emerging problem of synthetic drugs. While many of the 20 people who attended the presentation, held over noon at Hamakua Place, were initially interested in the meth cases in the county, their attention soon turned to the drugs known as such things as “bath salts,” “K2,” and the infamous “Krokodil.”
“Synthetic drugs have become popular in the last few years,” Weber said. “We’re starting to see them. They are probably the most popular with high school kids.”
Weber has been assigned to the Washington/Louisa County Drug Task Force for the last eight years. He said synthetic drugs have become a nationwide problem, and Washington County is no different.
Basically, he said, there are two kinds of synthetic drugs — synthetic marijuana, or K2, and bath salts. He explained bath salts were the powder version of synthetic drugs that looks like meth, cocaine or heroin. The drug got its name, he said, because it resembles legitimate bath salts sold at bath supply houses. He said they are marketed in containers that are marked as containing bath salts as a way of concealing the drug from the police.
Synthetic marijuana has the same appearance and symptoms as traditional marijuana does, he said. While Weber said that synthetic marijuana is a bit safer than bath salts, there have still been many cases where people have been hospitalized or have died from its use. He said there are several different names for both types of synthetic drugs.
During the discussion, he showed photos of the drugs, as well as dramatic videos showing people who had taken the drugs and the effect the drug was having on them.
“The bad thing that comes with bath salts is there is a lot of violent tendencies and suicidal tendencies,” Weber said.
He described some of the hallucinations people using bath salts can have. He said, strangely, they are the same every time. People on bath salts have described seeing demons, foreign soldiers, monsters, and aliens.
Weber also told several stories of people from Washington County who had been discovered using synthetic drugs. He spoke of one man who was walking from house to house asking for water. Weber said that the people the man spoke with all said he was obviously on something. The police responded and he was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for treatment. Weber said that officers had to wrestle to restrain him. On the way to the hospital, the person spoke of using bath salts. He was treated and released. Weber said that he died of a drug overdose a few days later.
He said that there was an incident where a county high school student was at the University hospital in a coma as the result of a drug. The hospital was trying to determine what kind of drug it was. It turned out, this was the first incident of bath salts in the county.
Some of the audience members asked how people on synthetic drugs could be identified. Other were curious about how the drugs were taken and what could be done.
“These are manmade creative drugs,” he said. “At this point, there are literally thousands of different types of bath salts and synthetic marijuanas. So it really tough.”