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Cabell County fights synthetic drug use

The Parthenon

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 00:01

According to a Monitoring the Future Study survey, 8.5 percent of college students are under the influence of synthetic marijuana. Delaney McLemore was one of them.

As a freshman in college, McLemore found herself stressed with the task of being a Marshall student. She turned to synthetic marijuana as a vice to relieve her stress. McLemore said she was drawn to synthetic marijuana for several reasons.

“Synthetic pot lasts a lot longer than regular pot and it is so much easier to get,” McLemore said. “It is so inexpensive that I could use a large quantity for relatively cheap.”

As time passed, McLemore said she began to feel serious side effects. She said she began to have spurts of rage and found herself angry at everything, paranoia caused her to lose sleep, eventually making her grades slip.

“I lost my friends, my family and my scholarship,” McLemore said. “I completely lost myself.”

Sober for one year and eight months, McLemore has found herself again. Now an English major with an emphasis on creative writing, she uses her writing for healing.

“I think about using everyday, but writing helps me cope and express myself,” McLemore said.

In 2012, the American Association of Poison Control Center responded to 7,455 calls in relation to “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana. The use of synthetic drugs reduced slightly in 2012 after a dramatic increase in 2010. Law enforcement officers and forensic scientists are in a constant battle to fight the use of these dangerous substances.

Synthetic drugs fall into two main categories—cannabinoids (K2 or Spice) and cathinones (bath salts)—and have unknown side effects. Users under the influence of these drugs can experience violent behavior, suicidal behavior, paranoia and black outs. Most of these drugs are easily attainable and cheap compared to most other drugs.

The main issue law enforcement faces is the rate synthetic drugs are introduced to the public. Once the chemical formula in the drugs is identified, it can become illegal. However, once this becomes illegal, two new formulas seem to take its place.

The Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership, a program of United Way, is taking synthetic drug abuse head on. CCSAPP held a town hall meeting about synthetic drugs on Marshall’s campus Jan. 17. The goal of the meeting was to educate and inform residents of the dangers of synthetic drug use and the complication of outlawing these drugs.

Lauren Waugh, of the Marshall University Forensic Science Center, spoke about the dangers of these drugs and the battle to control them.

“Distributors of these drugs don’t know what is in them,” Waugh said. “Users of these drugs have no idea what they are putting in their body.” “This makes it hard for doctors and emergency personnel because normal tests cannot detect what substances were used, making it next to impossible to successfully treat these patients.

Members of CCSAPP say education is the best way to prevent the problem from spreading any further. Laura Gilliam, executive director of United Way of River Cities, said people should not allow synthetic drugs use to be the status quo. “We cannot let this happen to our community. This should not become the norm,” Gillman said. “We need to educate our children and provide support for our law enforcement officers and forensic scientists.”

CCSAPP used Marshall’s campus as a gathering place to educate its students about the hazards of synthetic drugs. McLemore said she was pleased to know synthetic drugs were taking a forefront in student issues and discussions.

“We don’t hear the stories of sensitive, stressed out college students who are smoking synthetic pot because it is easily available and not that expensive,” McLemore said. “We don’t think it is that big of a deal. We don’t hear how they later commit suicide, or go to the psych ward or they lose themselves. We need these meetings to talk about how all synthetics are causing problems.”

CCSAPP hopes to have more meetings in the future. Its ultimate goal is keeping residents and students up-to-date on what is out there and what they can do to prevent it.

For further information, contact the Cabell County Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership at 304-523-8929.

Josie Landgrave can be contacted at

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