Use of synthetic or designer drugs like Molly, Spice, synthetic marijuana and K2, have been growing in popularity among teens since 2009. As more was learned about the drugs, consumption waned in 2012 and 2013. But as our health reporter Erin Billups tells us, there are still plenty of teens and young adults who think these drugs are perfectly safe to indulge in.
Alaina Steinberg began using a mix of drugs at 14 around the time of her father's death, the popular synthetic drug Molly is one she used often.
"It didn’t really matter what I was putting into my body as long as I didn’t have to feel the things that I was trying not to feel,” said Steinberg.
She's now 18 and after extensive treatment at several facilities including the New York Center For Living, she's now drug free.
Looking back, she's amazed at how easy it was to get a hold of the drugs.
"Literally like you go to a website and you pick what kind of like experience you want,” she said.
Or she would go to concerts.
"People are walking around and they’re like, ‘Got molly, got acid,’” she said.
While synthetic drug use has been leveling off according to national surveys, it's still very much a go-to for curious teens and young adults.
"We have no idea how potentially dangerous, long term, this is,” said Dr. Ronnie Swift, Metropolitan Hospital Center psychiatry chief.
Dr. Swift is warning members of her East Harlem community about the dangers and accessibility of synthetic drugs, that what may be marketed as "natural" or "pure" is anything but.
"There are more drugs than we can count in terms of different varieties, different combinations, different additives,” Dr. Swift said.
There are many names for the different designer drugs, Spice, K2, Molly, fake marijuana, but no standard recipe. Each time users buy, they're likely getting a new cocktail of chemicals.
"Spice can be in two different packages sitting next to each other can be quite different,” said Dr. Swift.
Over the past few years emergency rooms across the country, like Metropolitan's, have seen an uptick in people coming in suffering from side effects related to synthetic drug use.
"There’s so many things that happen that people don’t realize are side effects,” said Steinberg.
Psychiatrist Marianne Chai treated Steinberg. She advises parents to keep an eye out for drug abuse.
"One of the earliest markers of drug use is change in grades. There’s a change in personality, there’s a change in appetite, social withdrawal,” said Chai.
For more information, go to www.drugabuse.gov.
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