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Town hall meeting focuses on synthetic drugs

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Keeping up with the latest trends in synthetic drug production in hopes of curbing its use was the goal for about 50 people who attended a town hall meeting Thursday at Marshall University.

The meeting was hosted by the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership, or CCSAPP, which is a project of the United Way of the River Cities in Huntington. Marshall Professors John Krstenansky, with the School of Pharmacy, and Lauren Waugh, with the Department of Forensics, were the featured speakers for the event.

The goal of the event was to get community leaders and concerned citizens as informed as possible about synthetic drugs in hopes that they will be able to become part of the solution, Lynn Ormiston, CCSAPP program coordinator, said.

"We hope that once they have this information they will be able to teach what they've learned to other people and take action and become a very big part of the solution," Ormiston said.

The notion of synthetic or "designer drugs" goes back to the 1980s, when drug dealers sought to create a synthetic heroin, which eventually faded out because the synthetic version gave its users symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease, Krstenansky said.

He also noted that experiments with synthetic hallucinogens date as far back to the 1950s when the U.S. government tested such substances for possible military use.

"What most of these drugs derive from are actually natural products. They are made of products that play off of natural elements, and they add on to those natural elements in a chemical way," said Krstenansky. "There are so many compound possibilities for these synthetic drugs, and not just with heroin and marijuana. This can go farther to all categories of drugs, and that is the scary part."

While lawmakers in the United States and Europe have attempted to ban the basic chemical compounds that lead to the synthetic drugs, the lawmaking process is not keeping up with the drug-making process, Waugh said.

"We can only make the laws for the drugs that are out there," Waugh said. "It is still very hard to enforce them substantially because as soon as the laws are made, there is a new drug that goes around that law."

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