Assembly warns about ‘nasty’ synthetic drugs
January 4, 2013 4:44PM
A panel at Minooka Junior High recently spoke to students and parents about the dangers of synthetic drugs and bath salts, such as the ones pictured here. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: February 8, 2013 6:08AM
If your seventh- or eighth-grade student came home for the holiday break knowing a lot more about synthetic drug abuse than you do, it might just be a good thing.
Teaching pre-high school kids about the dangers of synthetic drugs, also called designer drugs, could keep them from using and abusing them, said Corporate Services Clinician Sandra Beecher from the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery.
Beecher was one of four people who spoke to students at Minooka Junior High in December. The lead speaker was Victor Markowski, director of the Joliet Metropolitan Area Narcotics’ Squad (MANS).
Beecher, Commander Tony Kestner of Illinois State Police Task Force 6 in central Illinois and Minooka Police Department community policing officer Denis Tatgenhorst were in attendance to answer questions from students, faculty and a small handful of parents who also attended.
The program was open to all school district families.
One in 10 high school kids have already admitted to using synthetic marijuana, Markowski said. If at least some of those students had been educated or warned, they might not have tried it.
“If they don’t already know about it they can find it on the Internet,” Beecher said.
One of the scariest things about synthetic drugs is that producers market it to be natural, organic and a safe alternative to the real thing. Marketing strategies and packing of the products, sometimes sold in tobacco shops, truck stops and mini marts, make it look like safe little packages of tea leaves or spices (synthetic marijuana) and small packets of bath salts (synthetic amphetamines).
The products have appealing names, like Blueberry Haze, Hawaiian Hybrid, Ivory Wave and Vanilla Sky.
To try and get away with selling it legally, they’ve even printed “Not for human consumption” on the packages.
But no matter what name they go by, however they are packaged, or what’s printed on them, they are illegal to sell, buy or possess and using them can put your life at risk.
A chemical is applied to tea leaves or other spices to mimic the high of naturally occurring THC in marijuana, but the synthetic form can be anywhere from two to 50 times stronger.
“Bath salts” are crystals or powder laced with chemicals similar to amphetamines. Depending on the chemical make-up, the effects can last anywhere from one to eight hours.
“You have no idea how they made it or what chemical they put in it,” Markowski said.
And while users of synthetic drugs may be looking for a fun time, they can also end up with all kinds of side effects, such as hallucinations, paranoia, violent behavior, seizures, headaches, vomiting, agitation, unconsciousness or even heart attacks.
Minooka Junior High Principal Shane Trager arranged the two assemblies so students would be armed with the correct information and hopefully not succumb to the hype of synthetic drugs.
“This is nasty stuff,” Trager said.
It’s sometimes hard to get a take on how teens are feeling, and that day wasn’t much different. Students filed out of the gymnasium, talking among themselves as usual; a few even stopping to ask questions of the presenters.
One student, Aidan Polaine, said he found the information interesting. “I liked it,” he said.
The assembly formats are good ways to get the information across to large numbers of students, Markowski said. Each of the two assemblies at Minooka Junior High reached 400 young teens. The hope is that those students will pass on the information to even more teens.
“I am very satisfied. We presented to 800 kids in two hours,” Markowski said. “I think the message is important to get out.”
Reach Kris Stadalsky at email@example.com.