State police seize synthetic marijuana in Killingly
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Apr. 9, 2013
Connecticut State Police seized 22 pounds of synthetic marijuana during a traffic stop in Killingly on March 30. The illegal substance was packaged in 1,300 brightly colored bags. Police estimated the street value to be approximately $20,000. It was the second seizure of synthetic marijuana in a month. Twenty-one pounds of the substance were found during a traffic stop on March 2, in Brooklyn.
There's been an increase in the use of the designer drug in the state and the nation. Until a year ago, it was legal and easy to purchase at gas stations, convenience stores and head shops. Sold as incense or herbal smoking blends in tin foil baggies, what looked like harmless dried leaves was sprayed with a combination of chemicals that would mimic the effects of getting high. The attraction was threefold: it was cheap to buy, legal and it didn't show up on drug screening tests. But hidden behind colorful packaging and snappy names like K2, Mad Hatter, Scooby Snacks and Bombay Blue, were combinations of chemicals that are sending users to emergency rooms.
When the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put five cannabinoids on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in March 2011, making them illegal to use or possess, it did so “to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.” The drugs have been linked to kidney failure and heart attacks in teens. In 2011, they were responsible for more than 11,000 ER visits and almost 6,000 calls to poison control centers nationwide. A report from the Michigan Department of Public Health claims that 11 percent of high school seniors have tried synthetic marijuana.
Ralph Miro has seen an increase in cases at Day Kimball Hospital. Miro is the director of Nursing and Emergency Medical Services for Day Kimball Hospital's Emergency Department. “What we've seen in terms of reaction to this drug has been profound,” he said. Patients have come in with hypertension, tachycardia or rapid heart beats, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and chest pains. Their vital signs can be off the charts. Patients can be completely confused or violent. “We had one patient who was so physically violent that we had to medicate him just to calm him down,” Miro said.
There are several different chemicals used in the manufacture of synthetic marijuana. Because emergency room personnel don't know what those chemicals are, they have a hard time treating patients. “That's the most frustrating aspect of caring for kids who come in on these drugs,” said Miro. “We're not sure if they have behavioral issues, or it's a drug, or a combination of the two. Most synthetics don't show up on drug tests. If THC shows up, the ingredient in marijuana known to produce a high, staff will likely infer the victim took a drug with synthetics in it.
“But someone using marijuana is typically more sedate,” said Miro. “With synthetics, it's the complete opposite. They're violent. They're thrashing about. They're frightened. They don't know what's happening to them. It's awful to see.”
Miro cautioned parents to watch for any changes in behavior that are beyond the norm. Confusion and violent behavior can be indications of drug use. So, too, might paraphernalia such as rolling papers.
Anyone with information regarding the illegal sale of narcotics and/or synthetic marijuana are encouraged to call the Connecticut State Police Troop D Quality of Life Task Force Anonymous Tips Hotline at 860-779-4950 or message the QLTF Facebook page.