Gateway Foundation Alumni Warn Others about Synthetic Drugs

Gateway Foundation Carbondale recently took part in a panel discussion hosted by the Harrisburg Alliance Against Drug Abuse to share with concerned citizens the many risks associated with synthetic drug use.

Synthetic drugs like bath salts and synthetic marijuana or K2 are abused for their psychogenic, hallucinogenic and mood-altering effects. While bath salts are in powder form like cocaine and may be ingested, injected or snorted, K2 is normally smoked or may be rendered into a liquid and taken with food.

Jennifer Casteel, a substance abuse counselor at Gateway Foundation Carbondale, was joined by two young men who volunteered to share their experiences with bath salts and synthetic marijuana. Currently in recovery, they both completed substance abuse treatment at Gateway Foundation Carbondale. Now the young men are cautioning others to stay away from synthetic drugs.

“Bath salts and K2 can cause adverse reactions, such as: hallucinations, seizures, agitation, vomiting, paranoia, anxiety, blacking out and over-stimulation of the central nervous system,” Casteel explained.

One of the young men primarily abused bath salts. While bath salts are now illegal, they weren’t when he started using them. He could find them for legal sale at several stores in his hometown for about $50 to $80 a gram. He explained the high was extreme, but so were the lows when the drug wore off and the crash came.

“I was up three to six days with no sleep, no food, just a lot of water,” the young man said. “Bath salts really mess with your brain. You literally hate everything, including yourself. You think about suicide. And you know the only thing that will make you feel normal again is if you do more of this. And that’s how it escalates so quickly,” he shared.

For the other young man, K2 was the drug of choice. A normally laid back person, he said when he used K2 he became violent with his mother, and was led from the house in handcuffs.

An unpredictable drug, some brands of synthetic marijuana may result in a slightly mellow feeling while others may create significant psychological distress. Even within the same brand, the effects may vary from packet to packet. K2 can induce a limitless high the more a user smokes. Its effects can be up to 10 times more intense than marijuana.

With synthetic drug abuse behind them, both young men look forward to a much more promising future. One has aspirations to open a restaurant and the other intends to pursue a career as a substance abuse counselor and help others like him get their lives back on track.

Supporting Your Substance Abuse Recovery This Holiday Season

The holidays come with a lot of anticipation. You look forward to experiencing the joy, togetherness and spirit of the season, but it’s not uncommon for idealistic expectations, extra demands and stress to start to weigh you down. Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment offers some practical advice to help support your recovery and your spirit so you can take the holidays in stride.

“Think about what you can do to have a holiday you will appreciate rather than getting caught up in thoughts of what could happen during the holidays. Be mindful and aware instead of ruminating about how unpleasant the experience can be. This is an important time to practice putting less focus on others and more attention to what you can control,” says Gateway Foundation Aurora Clinical Supervisor Nick Turner.

Have a Plan

Look forward and try to anticipate what could happen but don’t get too caught up in your thoughts. Remember, plan out in advance how you want to handle potential issues so you can be mindful and aware of your response. You only can control yourself and how you respond; you cannot control others.

Family Dynamics

Even though you love them dearly, challenging family dynamics—especially around the holidays—are not uncommon. Carry your values with you, like the love you have for your family, and tell yourself, this is how I want to be when I’m around them. Think ahead to when you’re driving home from the gathering, how do you want to feel about your actions and behavior towards your loved ones?

Setting Boundaries

Placing boundaries is an important step in taking care of yourself. For instance, letting your family know ahead of time about topics of conversation that you prefer not discussing can alleviate undesirable confrontations. However, you still need to have a plan in place just in case the subject comes up. Setting a time limit on your length of stay is another boundary you can set. If you do decide to go this route, you should let your family know ahead of time so there are no surprises when you are heading out the door. Gently tell your loved ones it is in the best interest for your recovery and they should understand.

Temporary Avoidance

Maybe you need more time before you feel comfortable hanging out with your family. If you postpone, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays with your family next year. You should know it’s okay to feel this way, and there is actually a name for this! This is what we call a value-based avoidance. Keep in mind that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have 24-hour meetings during the holidays so you don’t have to be alone. Or you could go to a local shelter and help feed the homeless and give back to others who need support during the holidays.

“Remember, when you’re around your loved ones, it’s less about being right or winning a battle and more about your values, goals and who you want to be as a person. The best advice I can offer is to remember to be mindful by observing and responding, don’t just react,” explains Mr. Turner.

Can the Body Recover from Excessive Drinking?

Research suggests the body can bounce back once a person stops drinking.

The liver, one of the few organs that can compensate by growing new cells, has remarkable regenerative powers. A liver mildly inflamed by alcohol can recover fairly rapidly once the drinking stops. Even a scarred liver can halt the process of cirrhosis if alcohol abuse is stopped in time.

Research even suggests that brains too can recover from damage caused by alcohol abuse.

Studies have found that after a month of sobriety, an alcoholic’s brain begins to repair itself, and brain volume, which tends to shrink from excess alcohol, is increased by a few percentage points. Patients’ ability to concentrate is also improved.

If you are concerned about someone who may be abusing alcohol or drugs, Gateway Foundation can help. Contact Gateway to arrange a free and confidential consultation at 877-505- HOPE (4673) or learn more about Gateway Foundation at Renew hope today.

What are Bath Salts?

Bath Salts contain manmade chemicals related to amphetamines that often consist of mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methylone, also known as substituted cathinones. The powder-like substance is described as “fake cocaine” and is consumed by snorting, injecting or smoking.


Bath Salts have gained popularity among recreational drug users and act in the brain like cocaine, reveals a study published by Behavioral Bran Research journal. Scientists recently tested the effect of the synthetic drug on mice using “intracranial self-stimulation” (ICSS) – a method that has been used for decades as a way to look at how drugs activate the reward circuitry in the brain, which can lead to addiction. Certain drugs increase the brain’s sensitivity to reward stimulation, which in turn makes them work harder to receive the reward. The researchers measured the mice’s wheel-spinning efforts before, during and after they receive doses of cocaine or bath salts, and they found that bath salts had the same reward potency as cocaine. These finding suggest that bath salts, although marketed until recently as a relatively benign “legal high” – could be more addictive than people may realize.


  • Anxious and jittery behavior
  • Insomnia, rapid heart rate, nausea, reduced motor control, seizures
  • Severe paranoia, panic attacks, depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Erratic behavior with potential for hallucinations, violence and self-mutilation
  • Lack of appetite

Gateway Foundation offers free educational materials that highlight signs and symptoms of substance abuse as well as on-site presentations about current drug trends. For more information, please visit or email

Gateway Foundation Presents on Drug Use Amongst Teens

Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment

Lisa Bloom
Outreach Coordinator

Lisa Bloom, Outreach Coordinator at Gateway Foundation Alcohol and Drug Treatment, and one of the Student Assistant Program Coordinators from Niles West High School, participated in a presentation on drug use amongst teens on Oct. 23, 2012.  The discussions included information about the rising problem teens throughout Illinois and the Chicago suburbs have related to abuse of prescription drugsheroin and synthetic drugs, such as K2 and bath salts.

Gateway Foundation at the Southern Illinois Occupational Health and Safety Conference

Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment

Matt Germann
Outreach Coordinator

Matt Germann, Outreach Coordinator for Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Carbondale, recently shared information on the latest drug trends, including synthetic drugs such as K2 and bath salts, at the Southern Illinois Occupational Health and Safety Conference.  The conference was sponsored by Southern Illinois Safety Council and Southern Illinois Environmental Managers Association with continued support from Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center, John A. Logan College, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Pepsi and Mid America.  The conference took place on Nov. 1, 2012 at the John A. Logan College Conference Center in Carterville, IL.

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