The tide is turning in the fight against synthetic drugs like bath salts. This past summer police and hospitals across New York State were bombarded with incidents, many turning violent. In response, new laws were passed trying to take these drugs off the street. Candace Hopkins takes a look at how the new rules are working.
STATEWIDE -- Law enforcement agencies and medical professionals throughout the state have been fighting a relatively new problem, synthetic drug use.
"Prior to 2011, 2010 we had never even actually heard of bath salts up here, didn't have a single case, although in other parts of the country it had been reported," said Upstate New York Poison Control Center Clinical Toxicologist Dr. Alexander Garrard.
The new drugs, and their violent and unpredictable side effects, quickly overwhelmed officials. In turn local, state, and federal lawmakers passed legislation making it illegal to sell or use them. That allowed police to crack down on head shops selling the drugs in July. But challenges remain, as manufacturers try to work around the bans.
"Traffickers are finding new ways to come up with different analogs that are not currently part of the federally banned substances, which creates an issue for us," said Michelle Spahn, a Supervisory Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Doctors say despite manufacturers best efforts to keep the drug accessible and in demand, usage has started to drop off. They believe the combination of the new laws, and an aggressive education campaign about the dangers of bath salts, are doing the trick.
"I think now given all of the horror stories that are out there and all of the education that we're doing that when I give a talk to some high school groups or I ask the kids, why are people doing this, or why would you want to do this, a lot of kids are saying I wouldn't want to do this, this is scary," said Dr. Garrard.
And experts say word of mouth, about the bad experiences on synthetic drugs, can be one of the most powerful ways to cut down on their use.