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Session to focus on synthetic drugs

Synthetic drugs
Jan. 13, 2013 @ 12:23 AM

HUNTINGTON — Shining a spotlight on synthetic drugs will be the intent of a town hall meeting presented Thursday by the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership.

The issue of synthetic drug use and abuse is an important and timely one, said Lynn Ormiston, CCSAPP program coordinator, given increased media reports and heightened awareness of the substances frequently called bath salts, Spice and K2. In its last session, the West Virginia Legislature banned the sale and use of synthetic cannabinoids such as K2, hallucinogens, stimulants and synthetic cocaine-like substances being sold under brand names including Ivory Wave. The substances were sold in adult-oriented shops and drug paraphernalia stores.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the numbers of calls related to bath salt exposure received by poison control centers across the country increased by more than 20 times in 2011; for synthetic marijuana exposure, the number doubled.

“This topic has had a lot of press coverage in the past couple of years and was a topic identified at the state level that communities in West Virginia would benefit from knowing more about,” Ormiston said. Ormiston said the event grew out of requirements from CCSAPP’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Grant through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

Ormiston said one of the most worrisome issues surrounding synthetic drug abuse is the effect the unknown ingredients in synthetic marijuana and synthetic cocaine products can have on the human brain.

“You can’t predict from one use to the next what effect it might have, whether the dose is the same or even what you’re getting because they’re acquired from all different sorts of places,” Ormiston said. “On Thursday, we’ll talk a little more about the science of it and spell out the problems and how these drugs can affect your health and your brain.”

Guest speakers at the forum include Dr. John Krstenansky from the Marshall School of Pharmacy and Dr. Lauren Waugh from the Marshall Department of Forensics. The event will conclude with a panel discussion. All activities will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in room BE5 of Marshall University’s Memorial Student Center.

“One of the outcomes we’re hoping for is to assemble as much information about synthetic drugs as we can. It’s a new area of substance abuse and we don’t really have a lot of good information so we’re hoping to fill in the gaps a little bit,” Ormiston said.

The information gleaned from Thursday’s town hall, Ormiston said, can be a good reference for attendees to take back to their families, neighbors, colleagues and constituents.

“The overall message would be not to even try these products. It’s not something people should be doing. It’s too unsafe,” Ormiston said. “We want people, particularly kids, to get the message to avoid using any substances. Their brains and their lives are still developing.”

Ormiston said CCSAPP is working on plans for a town hall forum on prescription drugs in February and an upcoming drug prevention summit on drug-exposed pregnancies and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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