In 2011 and early 2012, emergency rooms across New York State saw a frightening spike in visits from people who had ingested so-called synthetic drugs. Nationally, the story was the same. In 2010, poison control centers across the U.S. fielded almost 3,000 calls about a popular synthetic drug known as “bath salts.” In 2011, that number doubled, as did calls about the use of synthetic marijuana. The effects of some of the drugs were scary: seizures, significant leaps in body temperatures, cardiac systems fluctuating at a dangerous pace, psychotic episodes. The substances were a legal anomaly: chemical creations designed to mimic illegal narcotics, but were not always illegal themselves. Now, after a state crackdown on the drugs and heightened law enforcement, the tide may have turned, reports the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
“There seems to be a drop (in the use),” said Jennifer Faringer, the region’s director of DePaul’s National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “It’s really good to hear.” Clear successes in the battle against illicit substances seem few and far between. In the case of synthetic drugs, a quick and coordinated response from police, treatment providers, chemists who could determine the makeup of the drugs, and lawmakers was key to the assault. “While we were somewhat surprised by the rapid momentum of these types of drugs (appearing locally), there was a coordination between DEA chemists and local laboratories and law enforcement to address these drugs in an equally rapid way,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Gregory. “We’re really seeing dramatic reductions,” said Dr. Timothy Wiegand, the toxicology director at the University of Rochester Medical Center.