Karen Crowningshield, Assistant Nurse Manager, and Brody Hooper, Emergency Room Technician at Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
A grass-roots effort to try and curb the sale of synthetic marijuanas like K-2 and Spice are having an effect in the North Country.
Members of a group trying to eliminate the products from local shelves said that education has been a major factor in tackling the problem.
“When they hear about the bad news that is associated with K-2 and synthetic marijuana, they pull it off the shelves,” said Mac MacDevitt, Community Prevention Coordinator with the Prevention Team. “We want to work with our community partners to reduce the availability of it as well as make parents aware of the danger of this substance, as well as support the youth who have taken the lead in fighting for this cause, and I am really surprised that a student-led movement has moved this fast.”
“I have talked to several store owners, and they said that having learned more about K-2, they decide that it is a project that they do not wish to carry,” Arin Burdo, director of the Elizabethtown Social Center, said. ‘We had a informational night at the Social Center Feb. 11, and the primary goal is to inform the parents about this. They need to be active as well in trying to get this off the shelf. Parents need by get information and become more informed because this is a real threat in the community.”
Karen Crowningshield, Assistant Nurse Manager at Elizabethtown Community Hospital, said that the need for education of synthetic marijuana is critical.
“The first I heard anything about this was watching television and hearing about ‘bath salts,’ last year,” Crowningshield said. “I have been talking with people about this, and they have no clue what it is all about. It;s just not that known here as it is in other places, because I have talked with a family from New Jersey who live in a community where they have had two K-2 related deaths recently.”
The synthetic marijuana, know as K-2 or Spice, is a psychoactive herbal and chemical product that can mimic cannabis.
According to a release from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency last year, smokeable herbal products marketed as being “legal” and as providing a marijuana-like high, have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults.
“These products consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that claim to mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet,” the release said. “These chemicals, however, have not been approved by the FDA for human consumption, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.”
As the story of synthetic marijuana spreads, those who deal with victims of the substance said the main concern is being able to properly identify the use and treat it.
“We see it more and more,” Crowningshield said. “Last February, we didn’t even know that this was out there, and what makes it worse is that unless there is someone who can tell us that a patient is suffering from the affects of K-2, we have no way of knowing and then we are just treating symptoms. No regular medications work on this, so just treating the symptoms is really not helping.”
“I would say that it is fair that we now get a K-2 case in the Emergency Room once every two weeks,” Brody Hooper, an Elizabethtown-Lewis junior and Emergency Room Technician at ECH who also is traveling to local schools with a program about the dangers of K-2, said. “It is most often on weekends, because it is used at parties.”
Crowningshield said that the symptoms of K-2 use range from rapid heart rate to seizures, and can also lead to heart attack.
“We have to give the patient different types of drugs, and if we don’t know it’s K-2, we could be treating something else.”
“It misleads us,” Hooper said. “If we give a treatment and it is not working, we have to wonder what is going on.”
“This substance is made similar to THC, and it has similar affects,” Grant Martin, Clinical Pharmacist at ECH, said. “The problem is in the way that it is made. It is placed in a solvent that is used to then be placed on a type of plant matter. Treatment is not defined because this is not a defined drug. You don’t know what you are counter-acting, so there is a danger that you could make it worse.”
Hooper said that, to complicate matters, no two cases of K-2 use look the same.
“No one is going to be the same based on the makeup of their bodies and the makeup of the substance,” Hooper said. “It is made differently and coated with different chemicals, so you don’t know what is going to happen from one package to the next.”
“When you see a hospital get involved in prevention and education like this, that has to be a huge alarm,” Burdo said. “Parents need to pay attention and watch for any warning signs.
Hooper said that synthetic marijuana is something that he has known about since he was in seventh-grade.
“I was offered some right down on the street by a peer,” Hooper said. “Parents need to be really aware that this is out there because it is something you can buy at a store or online. The fact is, you can’t buy marijuana online, but you can this.”
“A key is listening to see where you children are at with this topic,” MacDevitt said. “Kids are very influenced by what their parents say.”