Drugs in disguise: A WAFF 48 News special report

By Eric Sollman - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Bath salts, or synthetic cocaine are being blamed for one death in Alabama.

Other synthetic products like K2, Serenity Now, and Spice are all synthetic marijuana were banned in the state, but makers of these products have adapted. The new synthetic drugs are in plain view in convenience stores all over north Alabama.

[DEA information on synthetic marijuana]

One man, speaking anonymously, says the number one reason people are smoking and snorting products that cost more than the drugs they mimic is they won't show up on drug tests.

"With the expense comes the reassurance that you're not going to fail a drug test," said "Joe."

The products Joe talked about are labeled innocently enough as incense or bath salts. Like THC, the stuff in marijuana that gets users high, synthetic cannabinoids, sold as incense, have the same effect by triggering receptors found on many cells in the human body.

The short and long term effects of Marijuana are pretty well known. The effects of these synthetic drugs are not as clear.

"None of these products are tested by the FDA. They're not designed for human consumption. You don't have any idea of what you might be getting," said Liz Barrontine, Director of The Partnership for a Drug Free DeKalb County.

Barrontine was a big supporter of getting the synthetic marijuana products outlawed last year.

"We're very fortunate in Alabama that our legislators made that illegal, but it hasn't completely stopped the problem," said Barrontine.

That's because with designer drugs, when one formula is outlawed, she says designers make new ones that create a similar high.

"We've gotten reports from kids about hallucinations or where they can get it, or how easy it is to get. Parents have complained that you can get it in convenient stores," Barrontine said.

"Joe" says a demand for the product means somebody is going to supply.

"The biggest issue here is people want to do it, and people are looking to bypass any system," said Joe.

Those in the realm of drug education say the key to eradication is education.

"You can't necessarily legislate every product sold, so we have to educate parents and teens in particular and tell these people that these products are not as safe as they seem," Barrontine added.

[National Drug Resource Center]

Joe actually wound up going to the hospital after using some of these designer drugs.

"You can imagine me being inebriated to a point where I had to go to the hospital and explain to the doctor what I had taken so he could possibly find a way to counter the effects," he remembered.

Explaining those effects, let alone what was in what he had taken, was no easy task. Joe found himself in an extreme state of paranoia.

"I didn't know the exact chemical, I knew the brand," Joe added.

Lawmakers in several southern states like Louisiana and Florida are introducing legislation to ban the bath salt products.

Related Stories:

Copyright 2011 WAFF. All rights reserved.