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State launches ads against synthetic drugs

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
Packets of synthetic marijuana

The state is airing two new public service announcements aimed at deterring people from using synthetic drugs.

State officials say synthetics are more dangerous than some think.

“But what we were hearing from young folks was they didn’t think there was any risk to using this. It’s fake marijuana. What’s the big deal?” says Rob Kent, general counsel for the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).

The state reports eight times as many emergency department visits this year related to synthetic drug use.

“[Some think] it’s synthetic marijuana. There’s no such thing. It’s not synthetic marijuana. It’s poison sprayed on leaves,” says Kent, adding that people are misinformed about what the drugs are.

The drugs are associated will a wide variety of negative health effects, like seizures, coma, and death.

“There’s just not any data for some of these chemicals for what the effects are in humans, the acute and the long term. We have to kind of piece it together as people end up experiment and end up experimenting and coming to the hospital,” says Dr. Timothy Wiegand, chief toxicologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Wiegand says the low cost of the drugs are a draw among some populations.

“When you’re on the streets and ache and homeless and really don’t have a lot of money and you’ve got a really intense and cheap intoxicant, people aren’t really thinking about what if this throws me into the hospital. What happens if I overdose?” says Wiegand.

The state campaign includes two public service announcements, a billboard downstate, and an expansion to the state’s combat heroin website.