With the start of a new school year comes the promise of new beginnings and adventures. Unfortunately, for some students, these adventures may include experimentation with drugs. The Oklahoma Poison Center cautions parents to be on the lookout for changes in their children’s behavior or achievement in school that may indicate drug abuse. Already, the staff at the center is aware of at least one Oklahoma student who experienced life-threatening toxicity from drugs purchased at school.
Drugs that emerged in 2010 and continue to gain popularity, as well as cause harm, include synthetic marijuana (also known as K2 or Spice) and the stimulants/hallucinogens often referred to as “bath salts.” These drugs often go by other names, and may be packaged in a manner designed to hide the fact that the product is actually a drug.
Synthetic marijuana is often sold labeled as herbal potpourri, when in fact the herbs have been sprayed with a potent chemical intended to mimic the effects of marijuana. The effects are quite different when compared to marijuana, however; aggression and severe paranoia leading to violent behavior is not uncommon.
The drugs known as “bath salts” are actually stimulants similar to methamphetamine, and they may cause varying degrees of hallucinations. They may be sold in packaging indicating that the powder inside is an insect repellant, plant food, screen cleaner, toilet deodorizer, or other household product. As with synthetic marijuana, violent behavior is not unusual, and the user’s body temperature may be elevated to a life-threatening degree.
Additionally, these drugs can cause seizures as well as heart problems and severely elevated blood pressure. Some of the drugs have been known to cause kidney failure as well. While not every person who abuses them will experience these severe effects, the number of people injured has been so high that medical professionals in Oklahoma and nationwide have raised significant concerns about their continuing popularity.
“I believe we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg,” says Scott Schaeffer, Oklahoma Poison Center managing director. “We continue to receive reports of people abusing these drugs, and there’s no end in sight.” Legislation to ban the chemicals has been passed, but the manufacturers attempt to evade the law by making new compounds, which are then released to the public with little or no human testing.
If you have questions about drug abuse or believe a family member is having a reaction to medication, call the Oklahoma Poison Center for more information and treatment advice at 1-800-222-1222. The Poison Help-line is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by trained specialists. The Oklahoma Poison Center serves as a valuable resource for Oklahomans, providing immediate, free and expert treatment advice, including medication information, when an actual or suspected exposure to poisonous, hazardous or toxic substances occurs.
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The Oklahoma Poison Control, a program of the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy at the OU Health Sciences Center, is one of 57 accredited regional poison control centers in the United States.