Designer drugs harming many Amarillo teens

NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - It's a night one Amarillo teenager can't remember, but a night his mother can never forget. The night that put him in the hospital and then behind bars.

His mother says, "He was so out of it. He had no memory whatsoever of Friday night. The police told him, you are very lucky to be alive."

But many others haven't been so lucky, after taking a new type of legal drug.

They're called synthetic, or designer drugs, and they mimic anything from marijuana, to Xanax, to ecstasy.

Laviza Matthews with Impact Futures explains, "They are selling them under the guise of incense, or stain remover, or mosquito spray and if you look at them, there's no way that's what they would be used for."

The package says "not for human consumption," but that's not stopping an alarming number of teens in our area from taking them.

Matthews says, "The guy in there told me he turns away 30 to 40 kids every day at lunch time, so the word is out at the high schools."

As the number of those doing these drugs grows, so does the number of those ending up with seizures, heart attacks, and brain hemorrhages.

What's more frightening is often doctors don't even know what do.

In 2011, Poison Control got almost 6,000 calls nationwide on how to treat someone who had ingested one of these drugs. 90% of those calls were from hospitals.

Cardiologist Dr. Gary Soya says, "There's no real treatment. You try to treat the symptoms and you try to repair the damage that's been done, but if there is damage that's been done to the heart in the short term, the data has shown that there may be permanent damage that may last the rest of your life."

That's if you're even lucky enough to live.

Matthews says, "Where will you be when you have this seizure. Will you be driving and then you kill you and your baby sister?"

While the horror stories go on, the fact of the matter is, they probably won't end any time soon.

Matthews says, "This is just so hard to ban because they can really just change one part of it and it's called legal again."

The victim's mother says, "It scared me so badly to see my kid handcuffed to a hospital bed with I. V.'s through his body, that as I mother, felt like I had to do something."

Which is why she and many others refuse to just sit by and wait for the drugs to become illegal.

They are working to spread awareness and it starts this week with a letter being sent to all AISD parents about the dangers of these drugs.

Letter to parents from AISD:

Dear Parents,

We want to communicate with you about an issue of safety and health that is impacting youth
across the nation. Please read this entire letter and make every effort to safeguard your teens.

Several synthetic drugs are gaining popularity among our youth.
These include compounds that mimic the effects of marijuana,
ecstasy, methamphetamine and cocaine. These substances are
often sold as bath salts, plant food, herbal incense, toilet
deodorizer and other misleading products.

The Drug Enforcement Agency considers these substances to be
unsafe and untested. There is a ban on all forms of synthetic
marijuana so that the DEA can test the products and learn more about their effects.

In the past year, Poison Centers across the U.S. received over 6000 calls as a result of these prod-
ucts. In addition, hospitals report an increase in cases at the emergency room from youth using these
substances. We also know that state and local public health departments note that these drugs cause
serious adverse health effects, including agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia (fast,
racing heartbeat), elevated blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, and paranoid behavior.
At least three Texas teenagers suffered heart attacks after smoking an illegal brand of synthetic
marijuana known as K2.

                            Several of these synthetic drugs were found in our schools this past fall by
                            drug detecting dogs. The products are sometimes sold in smoke shops,
                            truck stops, flea markets and other places that teens may visit. Some of
                            the products are referred to as K2, Spice or Molly.

                            The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to ban these synthetic
                            drugs, but the Senate has not addressed the issue. In addition, the State of
                            Texas has made many of these substances illegal.

Let your teens know that "synthetic" doesn't mean "safe" or "legal." Currently, the best
prevention is to educate yourselves, monitor which websites your kids visit, and constantly –
and we mean constantly – bring up this discussion in the household. Please talk with your
children frequently about avoiding all drugs. Help us keep your children safe and healthy.

                 Dr. Gary Angell                  Melynn Huntley
                 Amarillo ISD                     Amarillo ISD
                 Executive Director               Director, Safe Schools/Healthy Students