The perils of synthetic drugs


As Florida’s attorney general, I work to protect Floridians. One of the most alarming and dangerous trends I’ve seen since taking office is the rise of synthetic drug abuse. Some of you may generally know synthetic drugs as incense, potpourri, K2, spice and bath salts. These cathinones – bath salts – and cannabinoids – spice – are sold under names such as “Red Eye,” “Purple Flake,” “Scooby Snax,” “1/2 Baked Hulk” and “Express Barely Legal.”

While these drugs are marketed in bright packages and given innocuous names, the fact is they can be deadly. They can cause psychotic episodes, hallucinations, seizures, paranoia, tremors and more.

These drug manufacturers are targeting young people. The Drug Abuse Warning Network issued a first-of-its-kind report last year that studied emergency room visits linked to synthetic drug abuse. It found that more than 11,000 emergency room visits nationwide involved a synthetic cannabinoid product in 2010. Seventy-five percent of those visits were from people ranging in age from 12 to 29.

One February 2013 CNN article entitled “Teen narrowly escapes death after smoking synthetic marijuana” captures just how dangerous and life-altering these drugs can be.  After smoking “potpourri,” a 16-year-old girl ended up in an intensive care unit for weeks. An MRI revealed that she had suffered several strokes. She nearly died and emerged from the hospital blind and with brain damage, requiring physical, occupational and speech therapy.

This girl’s story underscores just how dangerous these drugs are and why we need to work together to stop synthetic drug abuse. There are three things that you, as college students, can do to help.  First, if you see these drugs on any store shelf in Florida, call local law enforcement. Second, tell your friends how dangerous these drugs are and discourage them from using them. Finally, if you see someone who appears to be suffering from the effects of synthetic drug abuse or is in any type of medical distress, call 911 for emergency medical assistance. By following these three steps, you can save lives.

In closing, I promise you that I will remain vigilant in my efforts to rid Florida of synthetic drugs. During the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, I worked with the Florida Legislature to add dangerous synthetic compounds to the Schedule I of controlled substances. This legislative session, I am working with bill sponsors, Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Clay Ingram, and the Florida Legislature to add an additional 27 synthetic substances to the Schedule I of controlled substances, making it a third-degree felony for an individual to “sell, manufacture or deliver or possess with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver” these dangerous drugs.

We will continue to do whatever it takes to protect Floridians from synthetic drugs, and I ask that you join me in these efforts to make Florida a safer place.