A group of registered nurses from University Medical Center in Lubbock will be featured at “Fake Drugs, Real Effects: Synthetic Drugs in Our Community,” an epidemiological work group organized by the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
The work group is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Region 18 Education Service Center, 2811 La Force Blvd. in Midland.
The agency’s series of epi-work groups target specific issues regarding behavioral health and substance abuse and how they impact Region 9 communities, including Odessa, Midland and the Concho Valley.
The group will discuss use of synthetic drugs among youth and its role in behavioral health. The main focus will be synthetic canaboinoids, like fake weed, Community Liaison Michelle Smith said. She’s hoping 100 people will attend.
Nurses Education on Illegal Drugs and Synthetics (NEIDS) is a group of emergency room RNs that educate the public on the health risks and hazards of synthetic marijuana and other drugs through public service announcements, educational offerings to school-age children, point-of-care education, local coalitions against synthetic marijuana and support new or revised legislation of local and state laws to halt the sale, distribution, and manufacturing of these synthetic compounds and illegal drugs, Smith said.
When patients come into the emergency department on synthetic drugs, patients can’t tell them what they’re on so the nurses don’t know how to treat them. Parents may be using the drugs with their children, so they won’t readily admit to that when they arrive at the hospital.
Regional Evaluator Kayla Fishbeck said there is no screening for the drugs because their chemical composition keeps changing.
Fishbeck said the effects of synthetic drugs can have lasting neurological effects. She added that others say they feel high for months afterward. Parents sometimes think their child is schizophrenic, but it’s the effect of synthetic drugs they may have taken weeks ago and they can’t shake it.
Because the amount of chemicals applied to the plants vary, the volume people receive when they purchase the drugs varies. Smith said the drugs are targeted at youngsters.
Fishbeck said people think they are safe because they bought them at a convenience store, tattoo or hookah shop. The drugs “really hit” the States around 2008. The manufacturers get plant material and spray it with paint thinner, acetone or drain cleaner.
Smith said many people who take synthetic drugs can pass drug tests.
“In the oilfield, that’s what people lean to because they do drug testing out there, but they’re undetected,” Smith said.
Fishbeck said the largest demographic on synthetic drugs is oilfield workers in their 20s to 40s. The reason people usually take the drugs is to stay awake.
“… That’s the crazy thing, too, is that there are people who take these every single day and they’re still alive. But then there are other instances where if you’re in the vicinity you could have a heart attack, one of the nurses said that,” Fishbeck said.
Around 2014 and 2015, Fishbeck said emergency rooms would see many cases a day of synthetic drug overdoses. “Now it’s just a couple to several a week, so it has faded some. But they expect it to rise with the next oil boom,” she said.
Synthetic drugs are illegal in Texas, but the companies that make them are finding ways around that.
In Odessa and Midland, it’s illegal to sell synthetic drugs, but there are still shops that do and they have lines outside waiting for the store to open, Smith said.
Kevin Thompson, also of the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, said there are treatment facilities in the region that handle synthetic drug abuse, but there are not enough and there is no consistency in how the drugs are made which makes it a problem to treat.
The drugs are made worldwide and Thompson said there are online forums that advise people on what vendors to use and what currency, whether it’s dollars or cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin.
Thompson said he thinks the work group is much needed.
“… Because even though marijuana use and alcohol use are very high in this area and higher than a lot of the other substances, this stuff is like use it once and most of time you’re incredibly addicted, or you could die,” Thompson said. “That’s unique about synthetic drugs because you don’t know what you’re ingesting and it’s a community problem that frankly not enough people are talking about. And something about this area with the economy that we have and the number of people that are looking for the newest way to stay up longer, or to get high we just don’t have enough resources to combat issue …” Thompson said.
A separate event, Your Mental Health First Aid is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 6, also at the Region 18 Education Service Center. Smith said this is filled up.
- What: “Fake Drugs, Real Effects: Synthetic Drugs in Our Community,” an epidemiological work group organized by the Permian Basin Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
- When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 2.
- Where: Region 18 Education Service Center, 2811 La Force Blvd., Midland.
Region 9 PRC: https://www.reg9prc.org/