Op/Ed By Jennifer Faringer MS.Ed.
Between June and August 2015, New York experienced a ten-fold increase in emergency department visits (more than 2,300) and poison control center calls (more than 300) from the adverse effects of synthetic marijuana, as compared to the same time period last year.
In response to the dramatic and dangerous increase in medical emergencies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the passage of New York State Department of Health emergency regulations aimed at combating the sale of synthetic compounds in the state, and expanding the existing list of banned substances to include new chemical compounds which have continued to be produced since the first synthetic marijuana spike in 2012.
“Far too many people continue to fall victim to synthetic marijuana, and we must do all we can to get these drugs off New York’s streets,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker stated. “These new regulations strengthen our ability to fight back against the individuals who are producing and selling these dangerous substances, by expanding the list of banned chemical compounds.”
Users of synthetics experience a variety of symptoms which are often unpredictable, as the chemicals used in the production of these drugs can vary widely in strength and composition.
Symptoms have included renal failure, arrested heart rate, high blood pressure, loss of consciousness, violent behavior, nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, agitation, anxiety and even death.
The Department of Health continues to partner with law enforcement to crack down on the sale and use of these synthetic drugs.
An owner of a smoke shop, as well as any other person possessing, distributing or selling synthetics, are in violation and subject to criminal penalties including a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 15 days in jail. In addition, civil penalties include a fine of up to $2,000 per violation.
If you are aware of locations where synthetics are manufactured, sold or distributed please call the Synthetic Drug Hotline at 1-888-99-SALTS (1-888-997-2587), or email the Bureau of Narcotics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Faringer is Director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence- Rochester Area (NCADD-RA).