Salt River Police Department School Resource Officers (SROs) and others educated families about the latest trends in teenage drug use during the Synthetic Drug Awareness presentation on Tuesday, October 16, at the Salt River High School. Speakers informed parents and interested members of the public about synthetic drugs such as “spice,” “bath salts” and inhalants. The goal of the presentation was to make people aware of some of the symptoms of drug abuse in teens and the harm that these synthetic drugs can cause to those who consume them.
“As School Resource Officers working in the high school, we have encountered spice,” said Salt River Police Department SRO Anslem Flores. “We educated Community members on these synthetic drugs. It’s not only seen in this Community, but in communities across the United States.”
Spice is a type of synthetic marijuana that is a dried, shredded plant material sprayed with chemical additives that make the user experience mind-altering effects, such as hallucinations. Spice is also called K2, Fake Weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk and Moon Rocks; some packages are labeled as “natural” and others are labeled “not for human consumption.”
“Because they are manmade chemicals and they’re being consumed by individuals, all individuals are different [regarding] how their bodies react to the substance. [Effects] vary from one person to the other,” said Flores. “A lot of times when people take spice, the symptoms are hallucinations, nausea and increased strength; in some cases, users develop an increased heart rate, and sometimes [it causes] death.”
Arizona, along with 11 other states, made spice illegal in early 2011 with the passing of H.R. 2167, a bill that banned 10 chemical compounds commonly used in spice blends. Anyone caught making, selling or possessing spice can be charged with a Class 2 felony, which carries a minimum of two years in prison.
“Unfortunately, these drugs are still out there, but I believe there is going to be a point in time where [law enforcement] is going to close down these shops that are selling these things,” said Flores.
Bath salts are a powder-like substance that is supposed to mimic the effects of methamphetamine or cocaine. It also can be known as vanilla sky, blue silk, blizzard, stardust, pure ivory, white lightning, white knight, ivory snow, white dove and more.
“Again, these are sold in shops and labeled ‘not for human consumption,’” said Flores. “The misconception is when people hear the term ‘bath salts,’ they think it’s something you put in the water before you take a bath. But it’s really a synthetic drug containing amphetamine-like chemicals and other unknown chemicals. The effects are violent behavior, hallucinations, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and death.”
Along with spice, bath salts also were made illegal as part of H.R. 2167 in early 2011.
The School Resource Officers said they have heard a lot of talk from students using or trying inhalants to get high. Inhalants are highly toxic, and when teens inhale dangerous chemical vapors it can cause heart failure, suffocation, convulsions, seizures, coma and death. The vapors can be found in a range of everyday products, making inhalants an easy high.
“The perception on these drugs is that people might think they’re safe because [they’re] not illegal drugs; but then again, it’s poison,” said Flores. “It’s affecting your brain and affecting your system. After speaking with the Community members, it is a major issue of concern.”
Educate a Community
The presentation was designed to inform and make Community members aware so they have some knowledge that these substances exist and can do their part to prevent their loved ones from using these or any other illegal drugs, explained Flores.
During the presentation, a number of Community members voiced their opinions and give the School Resource Officers suggestions on what they would like to see regarding teen drug use in the Community. As a result of that Community dialogue, the School Resource Officers are now working along with security and the high school to coordinate a public/student safety conference. They hope to hold the conference in early 2013 to educate Community members on topics such as drugs and safety information.
Parents always need to know that it’s important to talk to their children about drugs. “Be involved in your children’s day-to-day activities. Ask them questions, be aware, and communicate with your kids. Ask them if they know about these things, and let them know there are boundaries and that it is wrong,” said Flores. “If they have any questions, they can ask the police or talk to any one of [the School Resource Officers]. I am at the high school.”