Synthetic drugs have risen from an occasional problem to a regular sight as users seek the same old high from a new source, say counselors who work with people battling substance abuse problems.
The Prince George’s County Council is considering a bill that would list a variety of chemicals used in multiple synthetic drugs as illegal.
About a thousand people battling substance abuse in Prince George’s County and across the state come to the Silver Spring nonprofit Second Genesis and staffers have seen an uptick of those abusing synthetic drugs, said CEO/president Thomas Barrett.
“If it’s on the shelf and it’s not illegal, it’s highly successful,” he said.
The drugs have a variety of street names such as Mad Hatter, Dr. Feel Good and Scooby Snacks, said Prince George’s police officials. The drugs are often labeled as potpourri, as some of the chemicals can be sprayed on a low-cost piece of potpourri and then sold and burned to produce a high, officials said.
Synthetic drugs began to become prevalent around the county in 2009 and 2010 as they weren’t illegal, said Det. David Martini of the county police.
Synthetic drugs went through a period of popularity two to three years ago where they could be found in gas stations and storefronts in areas such as College Park and the county’s Eastern Avenue corridor near Washington D.C., police said. As public awareness has risen about the drugs, most businesses have ceased selling the substance in the county, Martini said.
“We know the impact of heroin and the opiates, a lot of studies have been done in that regard,” he said. “People are just starting to take a look at these [synthetic drug] substances.”
The synthetic drugs can be particularly worrisome as some act on the nervous system and can cause effects ranging from delusions to paranoia and in some cases chest pains, heart attacks or psychosis, Barrett said.
County Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison’s proposed bill received unanimous vote of support Feb. 28 from the council’s Health Education and Human Services committee.
Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale said she was optimistic the council will be able to pass the bill into law within the next few months.
“I don’t know, if we can ever get on top of this but we do the best that we can,” she said.