Pubdate: Wed, 31 May 2006
Source: Central Michigan Life (Central MI U, MI Edu)
Officials Say Synthetic Drug Use More Prevalent In Mount Pleasant Area
It's a lucrative business that is spreading further away from the inner city and reaching out to less dense areas of the nation and Michigan.
It even makes millions of dollars annually.
But it's also responsible for the more than 100 drug overdoses recorded the past few weeks in the Detroit area, which finally forced Wayne County to issue a warning May 19 because 12 people died from overdoses in a 24-hour period.
It's the business of processing and selling synthetic drugs, or man-made drugs, a process that is increasing at a dangerous rate.
"These are drugs that pose a serious threat to young people in the United States," said Sarah Campbell, director of CMU Health Services, in an e-mail. "They include methamphetamine, MDMA ( Ecstasy ), PMA, GHB, GBL, ketamine, rohypnol, LSD and PCP. ( They're ) produced in clandestine illegal labs or sometimes manufactured as legitimate medication by pharmaceutical companies, but then diverted and marketed illegally."
The recent overdose cases in Detroit were caused by a drug mixture of heroin and the pain killer fentanyl, a man-made drug mixture.
Synthetic drugs are commonly referred to as "club drugs," and their results can be deadly.
MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy, 'X' or 'E,' is one of the more popular synthetic drugs that has spread beyond the club scene.
Until 1985, MDMA was legal in the United States. It became popular in Dallas bars around that time, then spreading to dance clubs and later in rave clubs.
During the 1990s it became one of the four most widely used illegal drugs in the United States, joining cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
Before that time, psychiatrists used the drug as a therapeutic tool. MDMA is known as a mood elevator that produces a relaxed, euphoric state.
Campbell said myths about drugs can make substances like MDMA more appealing.
"A growing supply of the drugs and the widespread misconception that they are not as dangerous as heroin or cocaine increases their appeal to young users," she said.
The drug's effects include enhanced sensations, heightened feelings of empathy, emotional warmth, intense euphoria, visual distortions and a sense of mental clarity and self-acceptance.
Stephen Thompson, sexual aggression service coordinator for CMU, works with sexual assault associated with drugs. He said ecstasy is one of the drugs he looks at.
"Typically people just say you feel really good," he said. "You have incredibly heightened senses. At rave parties you'll see a lot of light shows."
Ecstasy is not physically addictive. MDMA releases the brain chemical serotonin, which elevates a person's mood.
Compulsive users will take the drug in an attempt to self-medicate for depression.
"When you go up, you also come down," Thompson said. "You get really high, but you get really low. There's depression after."
With high doses, ecstasy can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature. This can result in liver, kidney and cardiovascular system failure and even death.
Thompson said there often will be cool rooms at rave parties to bring down ecstasy users' temperatures.
"It ( ecstasy ) raises the body's core temperature," he said. "Your body is a furnace. You'll see people on E drinking a lot of water."
Club owners often charge high prices to enter those cool rooms, as well as jack up the prices of bottled water.
Dehydration often occurs in people who use E because of this high temperature effect.
MDMA users also have been known to grind their teeth and clench their jaws, stemming from the drug's side effects. E users often are seen chewing on a pacifier or something similar to cope.
Ecstasy generally is found in pill form. Typical prices for E in the United States range from $5 to $40. Typically, the pills will have some sort of icon or stamp on them.
Several drugs, including aspirin, canine heartworm medication and other sorts of pills, have been sold as ecstasy across the country. Thompson said Mount Pleasant is no different.
"In this area there is a substantial amount of what people think is E, but is not," he said. "Typically E is produced outside of this country."
Thompson said people will make up their own mix of drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamines, and try to sell it as ecstasy.
"They put those together in a capsule and pawn that off as E," he said. "When someone is on one of the fake ones, they don't have the same response to sight and smell."
Thompson said ecstasy is prevalent in the Mount Pleasant area.
"It's pretty easy to get around here," he said.
But Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said for college students, ecstasy isn't a first choice.
"With college students, besides alcohol, marijuana is the drug of choice," he said.
Mioduszewski said he has noticed some increased use of methamphetamines, but not much.
"We haven't seen a lot of that yet in this area," he said. "With anything, it starts in the West and takes some time to get to the Midwest."
Crystal methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a colorless, odorless and highly addictive synthetic stimulant. It often looks like a small piece of glass or like shiny blue and white rocks. It usually is smoked using glass pipes.
This past September, Isabella County Sheriff's Deputies busted a crystal meth lab and arrested three suspects.
"We are seeing some abuse with prescription drugs, not so much man-made drugs," Mioduszewski said. "( But ) we're starting to see more and more meth."
Methamphetamine's long-term effects include chronic fatigue, paranoid or delusional thinking and permanent psychological damage.
The use of illegal street drugs such as ecstasy and crystal meth has prompted action from Congress.
The Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, or RAVE Act, was introduced in 2002. The act's intent is to stem the distribution of controlled substances and create civil penalties for owners or users of property upon which illegal drug trafficking activities are conducted.