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Online tools aimed at educating parents about synthetic drugs

By Carol Cratty, CNN
updated 8:39 PM EST, Thu February 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Partnership at Drugfree.org unveils online info tools on synthetics
  • The kits include a podcast and video, a slide cast and a printable guide
  • Poison control centers see a huge jump in synthetic-drug-related calls
  • Drug policy director: Spice, K2, other synthetics "can cause serious harm"

Washington (CNN) -- For parents who are mystified by drugs with names like Spice and bath salts: There's now a kit to help you out.

The Partnership at Drugfree.org on Thursday unveiled tools available online to help adults understand synthetic drugs and urged them to talk to kids about their dangers.

"These are threats that were not around when they, themselves, were teenagers," said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the drug education organization.

The kits include a podcast and video, a slide cast and a printable guide with information on street names for drugs, what kinds of medical problems they can cause, and tips on how to tell whether their children might be using synthetic marijuana or stimulants.

Pasierb and Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, met with officials from government and anti-drug groups to discuss how to combat the synthetic drug problem. Among those participating were officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Department of Health and Human Services; the State Department and the Defense Department.

"The use of synthetic drugs like Spice, K2 and bath salts are a serious threat to the nation's public health and safety," Kerlikowske told reporters after the meeting. "Make no mistake, these drugs are dangerous and can cause serious harm."

Users of the illegal substances can experience seizures, nausea, elevated blood pressure, and paranoid behavior.

Poison control centers were among the first to sound the alarm about synthetics.

"In 2010 our centers responded to 3,200 calls about synthetic drugs," said Deborah Carr, executive director of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. "In 2011 that number increased to 13,000. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients under the age of 25."

Amy Stillwell of Bowling Green, Kentucky, said in August her daughter, Ashley, took just one hit of 7H, a type of potpourri often smoked as a marijuana substitute, that some friends had bought at a hookah bar. According to Stillwell, her daughter told her she became temporarily paralyzed and unresponsive, and her friends tried to revive her by pouring water on her head.

The recent high school graduate told her mother she was conscious enough to hear what her friends were saying, and she claimed they discussed the possibility of having to dispose of her body.

Ashley eventually came around enough to talk to her parents on the phone and they came to get her. She was briefly hospitalized.

Kerlikowske called on Congress to pass legislation to outlaw the substances. The House of Representatives has passed such a bill, but it's stuck in the Senate. The DEA used emergency powers to temporarily ban the drugs, but Kerlikowske said that's not a long-term solution.

In December the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported one out of nine high school seniors had used K2 or Spice in the past year, making it the second-most commonly used illegal drug after marijuana.

The new kits to help parents can be found at http://www.drugfree.org/

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