Mt. Vernon Register-News

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October 12, 2012

First responders learn designer drug symptoms

MT. VERNON — Nearly 85 emergency responders attended a seminar Thursday to learn how to recognize the increasing use of designer or synthetic drugs that have been commonly available in retail stores and still remains prevalent on the Internet. The  seminar was held at Crossroads Community Hospital.

According to Darrin Bradham, a flight paramedic with Air Evac Lifeteam, and one of the presenters, the use of synthetic marijuana or synthetic cocaine is on the rise and is having deadly results. The drugs are often referred to as K2, Bath Salts and Spice.

“One time  use of these can result in death,” he told the audience of paramedics, firefighters, emergency room staff and police.

The drugs are man-made and similar to methamphetamines but layered on easily purchased products such as incense leaves or additives to a bath. Bradham also said the drugs are difficult to detect and are rarely tested for. Behaviors to watch for include anxiety, paranoia, increased heart rate, hallucinations and seizures, the name a few.

A new state law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in July targeted the retail sale of synthetic drugs and addresses “the fact that synthetic drugs are packaged with misleading labels designed to give the impression that the products are legal and not intended for human consumption. These deceptively labeled products are then sold in retail stores, according to a press release issued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office at the time.

The new law has had its impact locally, said Scott Smith, a detective with the joint Narcotics Division of the Mt. Vernon Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Smith said law enforcement in cooperation with the attorney general’s office have scoured  retailers across the county to both ensure they are not selling the products and to get their pledge not to do so in the future.

“If they are caught doing it then they can be  prosecuted. ... And the reason why is because they are selling it for people to consume. It’s not actual incense. That’s not what they are and we know that’s not what they are,” he said.

A small vile containing about 3 grams of the drugs have  been known to be sold for anywhere from $15 to $30, Smith said. One local business was making more than $120,000 a month selling the narcotics.

“We shut him down,” Smith added. He also said many of the narcotics are being manufactured in China.

Bradham said many of the  drugs remain available on the Internet “by the truckloads” and many are manufactured in China.

Tiffany Spenner, director of emergency services at Crossroads, said emergency personnel in five counties attended the  seminar.

“It’s becoming more and more prevalent in this area all the time. We see a lot of it in our local emergency rooms. Our ER providers are dealing with that every week, so we feel this is a hot topic in this area right now,” Spenner said.

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