Hibbing Community Battles Against Synthetic Drugs

By KBJR News 1

November 10, 2011 Updated Nov 10, 2011 at 7:22 PM CDT

HIBBING, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)---Minnesota's synthetic drug law bans the use and sale of substances found in name brand drugs including synthetic marijuana, bath salts and plant foods.

Still, authorities on the Iron Range say they've been fighting an up hill battle to keep people from buying and selling synthetic drugs.

Hibbing community members are learning just what exactly is out on the streets and in their homes.

For many parents, raising teens can be challenging enough without having to keep up with current substance abuse trends.

Cheryl Berg knows first hand the effects synthetic drugs can have on a person.

"He was thinking that was helping him think better and he attempted to smoke more of it," Berg said. "By the time we knew, he was in deep trouble."

Berg's son, Jason had to be hospitalized in a mental health facility to overcome his addiction to synthetic marijuana.

To prevent similar stories from happening, about 100 community members Wednesday night learned various types of substances and synthetic drugs youth may be exposed to.

"You always hear the crystal meth, that's the main one that I've heard of," Scott Smilanich, father of a 15 and 13-year-old said.

"And prescription drug use," Cheryl Smilanich said. "A new one I guess that I'm here to learn about is synthetic marijuana."

Meanwhile, authorities continue to fight to keep people away from synthetic drugs.

Iron Range officials confiscated more than $5,000 of synthetic marijuana from two Hibbing residents last week.

"We're seeing a lot of it, a real lot of it," Investigator Richard Sellman of the Hibbing Police Department said. "And we are seeing that a lot of people are almost having more trouble with that as far as their behavior then they are with regular marijuana."

Experts say those who use synthetic drugs often have symptoms of rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.

"Don't think that they are safe by any means," Jay Jaffee, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Coordinator said. "They are not. They are probably more dangerous than the things people would be substituting them for."

Within the first six months of 2011, more than 3,000 calls were made to Poison Control Centers in Minnesota about synthetic drugs.

Posted to the web: Jennifer Walch