Parents concerned about synthetic drugs should look for:
- Possible drug-using paraphernalia, such as thin tubes or things used to grind up drugs.
- Common products drugs can be stored in, such as coffee cans, soda cans, and cigarette packs.
- Behavioral changes, which could be minor, or possibly severe.
- Child abruptly changes friends, or becomes more withdrawn.
- Pupil dilation, which can often be a sign of drug usage.
- An increase in secretive behaviors.
- Some synthetic drugs can be bought online, so consider monitoring Internet activity.
- Bath salts are typically sold in small bags or pouches, and include brand names such as Cloud Nine, Ocean Snow and Lunar Wave.
Source: DCCCA, Inc. and the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Kansas lawmakers are trying to keep up with synthetic drug manufacturers, recently passing a bill that adds a variety of chemicals found in snortable bath salts to the list of controlled substances.
The move follows a 2010 law banning the active ingredients in K2, a smokable herbal mixture that mimics the effects of marijuana.
But parents should also be taking steps to keep ahead of the emerging market of synthetic drugs, said Jen Jordan, prevention coordinator for the Lawrence-based counseling services agency, DCCCA.
Jordan said the accessibility of synthetic drugs, and their increasing visibility and popularity, means parents should be having an important discussion with their children about the substances. Parents need to educate themselves about synthetic drugs, Jordan said, and stress the dangers of drugs that often contain unregulated chemicals.
“These are poisons,” Jordan said.
Prevention efforts are ongoing in local schools, which have included presentations to parents about such substances, Jordan said.
Parents should also be monitoring for signs of synthetic drug usage.
“Parents need to be detectives in their own house,” Jordan said.
In addition to looking for the actual drugs in the home, behavioral changes are often a key indicator that drugs might be involved, Jordan said.
With bath salts, which are crushed up and snorted or injected, behavior changes can be severe and can include psychosis.
KU medicinal chemistry professor Tom Prisinzano said the salts mimic the synthetic drug ecstasy.
“They’re basically just amphetamine derivatives,” he said.
Several high profile events in Kansas and Missouri — which recently passed a similar law banning the chemicals in bath salts — have highlighted some of the serious consequences of using bath salts.
In 2010, a Kansas University student died in Salina after being struck by a vehicle when he ran into traffic. Police found bath salts containing methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, in the student’s possession.
Law enforcement officials say they haven’t yet seen bath salts pop up in Lawrence, and Jordan said the substances don’t seem to be in high usage in the area.
But nationally, the substance is becoming more popular, said Loreeta Canton, spokeswoman for the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
In 2010, poison control centers in the United States reported 302 calls about bath salts. Calls have jumped to more than 2,5000 calls so far in 2011, Canton said.