Cole County sees synthetic drug problem spike

Health Department, EMS, Sheriff issue joint warning about K2, synthetic drugs

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - After a spike in synthetic pot reports over the weekend, Cole County officials issued a warning Tuesday about the drugs.

EMS personnel reported at least three incidents last weekend that were related to K2 or synthetic drug use. Since the first of the year, at least 14 medical problems in the county have been related to the drugs.

"It's a poison," said paramedic Kevin Wieberg. "It's a poison you're introducing into your body, no if's, and's,or but's."

K2 was outlawed by state legislators in 2010, but each year new chemical compounds are created to continue sales of synthetic drugs. Lawmakers said they are often in a reactive mode, outlawing compounds only to have new formulas hit the streets.

"There's a myth that K2 is legal, it is not," said Cole County Sheriffs captain John Wheeler on Tuesday. "There's some myth out there that it is an all-natural substance, it is not."

Wheeler said law enforcement struggled to investigate cases of synthetic drug use because users don't report it, knowing it is illegal. Other times, evidence is removed before deputies arrive at a scene.

"It's underreported," Wheeler said. "We can't find it because, by the time we get there and because it's a problem, it's already gone."

Deputies, Health Department officials and paramedics Tuesday called on parents, teachers and health care providers to educate Cole County residents about the dangers of the drugs, the health effects and the legal ramifications.

The public warning also came after a Jefferson City man, Matthew Hamilton, was arrested Sunday for chasing a woman with bolt cutters in Moniteau County. He allegedly told investigators he was in a dreamlike state after smoking synthetic drugs.

"There's counties surrounding us that have it a lot worse than what we have but whatever happens in counties surrounding us happens in our county too," said Wheeler.

Wieberg agreed.

"It's putting yourself in danger, it's putting responders in danger, and the general public as well," he added.

Synthetic drugs are often sold as potpourri, with "Not For Human Consumption" on the label, but appearing in brightly colored packages with names like "Black Diamond," "Diablo," and "Scooby Snacks."

Users have reported fast heart rates, breathing problems, nausea and vomiting, seizures and psychotic episodes.

"The biggest thing I want to get out there is what parents have got to do and what people need to realize is how bad this stuff is," Wheeler said.

Deputies urged lawmakers to continue to consider outlawing the drugs and all similar chemical compounds, a process that's been happening at the state capital for several years.

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