Q: What exactly is a synthetic drug and when did the police department start seeing them in western South Dakota?
A: Synthetic drugs are not new. Many drugs are synthetically produced. As far as synthetic designer drugs and the types we are seeing, I started seeing synthetic marijuana about 2-3 years ago. The first time I saw MDPV (bath salts) was January 2011.
Q: What is synthetic marijuana, and why is it dangerous?
A: Synthetic marijuana is a chemical compound that mimics the effects of real marijuana by affecting the same receptors in the brain. It is produced to have different effects on those receptors and can be between 4-100 times more potent than real marijuana. Because it is so new, the long-term physical and psychological effects are unknown, but potentially severe.
Q: How prevalent are they in the area?
A: As of recently, they are very prevalent because of the easy access and the ways the sellers circumvent the laws. When people assume something is legal, they assume it is safe. Synthetic designer drugs can absolutely be more dangerous.
Q: What are some side effects of the drug?
A: Side effects include panic attacks, severe agitation, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, elevated pulse and blood pressure, to name a few. Seizures and death can also occur.
Q: Why is Rapid City seeing such a big increase in the sale/usage of synthetic drugs?
A: Recently, they have been very easy to get. You can get them off the Internet, and many local shops have been selling them. The manufactures use deception to try to market them as things like incense, spice, potpourri, bath salts, etc., to try and circumvent the drug laws.
Q: Would SB 23 help law enforcement combat some of the drug use and sale?
A: Yes, it would make nearly all these chemicals illegal. It would be more of a deterrent for people to use, make, sell, etc., ... and local shops would no longer be able to sell these products to our kids and young adults.
Q: What age group(s) do the synthetic drugs seem to be most popular with?
A: Teenagers and young adults are the largest age group using these. We don’t see it in the middle schools often, mainly high schools and people in their 20s. But many middle school kids know something about these drugs.
Q: It seems that if it’s legal to sell the synthetics, using deceptive marketing tactics, that it’s an education problem. Youth and adults need to become aware of the dangers of ingesting synthetic drugs. What is being done to educate youth about the dangers of synthetic drugs?
A: I have given numerous presentations, several to students at South Middle School. I will continue presenting to groups to educate kids and parents about this topic. People need to understand that these chemicals are not safe.
Q: Is the DARE program still active in the schools?
A: The DARE program is still active, but not in Rapid City. This is something our department puts on the liaisons as far as getting into the classrooms and getting information to kids. I’ve been in several classes this year, particularly at the middle school level.
To read the full transcript of this Live Chat, go to live.rapidcityjournal.com.