Synthetic drugs continue to be a problem across Texoma.
With the chemicals in them constantly changing, it makes it very difficult for law enforcement agencies to crack down on the growing problem. Drug dealers are also known to change the names of the synthetic drugs in an attempt to stay within the law.
This is why U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry has introduced a bill called the “SALTS Act.” It specifically targets drug manufacturers, distributors and sellers. Congressman Thornberry explained the bill would help close the loopholes that currently make it difficult to prosecute. This is because the packages are labeled as not intended for human consumption.
On Wednesday, Congressman Thornberry was in Wichita Falls to talk about the bill with local law enforcement agencies and health experts.
“You can’t treat it lightly,” he said, “It is serious, serious business.”
Representative Thornberry said expressed during a press conference how dangerous synthetic drugs can be.
“Just because it says synthetic marijuana, or has some other sort of name, it is really poison that can have permanent effects on people's health,” he said.
Yet, people still want to experiment with the drugs. Roddy Atkins with the Helen Farabee Center explained there are many different reasons why people will turn to synthetic drugs.
“Curiosity, to try to help medicate themselves,” Atkins said.
However, as he expressed, no none of the reasons are valid. This is why law enforcement agencies in Wichita Falls and Wichita County have been proactive in getting the upper hand on the problem.
“First we had to identify where they were selling this stuff,” Chief Manuel Borrego, with the Wichita Falls Police Department said.
Borrego explained there were numerous stores within the city that were selling synthetic drugs. The District Attorney’s Office said they actually got complaints from parents about the issue, which pushed the investigation.
“The people that distribute K2 target our youth in our community and young adults,” Maureen Shelton, Wichita County DA’s Office said.
During several investigations, officials found some packages of K2 with the illegal substances in them, while others didn’t. So, it was a hit and miss. However, with the help of the DA’s office they found ways to prosecute people who were involved in the illegal activity.
“We were able to get them off the shelves,” Chief Borrego said, “Is it gone completely, of course not.”
Officials believe a key component to solving the synthetic drug problem is educating the public on the dangers. Dr. John Hilmi with the United Regional Emergency Department said people will come in with many different symptoms.
“Neurological, cardiac, and renal usually are the three big ones,” he said.
He explained a lot of times they won’t know if the person has taken synthetic drugs unless they admit it, or someone they are with tells them.
“There’s no way to test for it and I think that’s the appeal of it to some people,” Dr. Hilmi said.
People who use synthetic drugs are also at risk of permanent psychiatric damage. This is something that has already been seen in Texoma.
“It’s a growing problem and it’s been a growing problem in other parts of our district, which is what got me onto it,” Congressman Thornberry said.
Officials said it is important for everyone to be observant and proactive when it comes to synthetic drugs. They said parents should be alert and ask questions if they are suspicious.
“There comes a point where there’s a signal to that parent, or other people in that adolescent's life that there is some trouble there,” Atkins said.
He explained people should look for significant behavioral changes.