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.