Synthetic drug overdose numbers high in Elkhart and St. Joseph C - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Synthetic drug overdose numbers high in Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties

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Elkhart Fire Dept. Chief Paramedic Bill Sullivans answers a radio call. Elkhart Fire Dept. Chief Paramedic Bill Sullivans answers a radio call.
The lucrative business of designing and selling a legal alternatives to marijuana is driving thousands of Americans into the emergency room. Synthetic drug abuse was linked to 28,531 emergency room visits in 2011 alone. In Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, emergency room doctors and first responders are fighting to treat a growing number of overdose victims.

"It's easy to get and easy to find," chief paramedic for the Elkhart Fire Department Lt. Bill Sullivan said.

His team responds to a 9-1-1 call for a synthetic drug overdose at least once a day.

"Hopefully it's going to be harder and people will stay away from it, because it's not safe."

For now, local emergency rooms are treating a revolving door of overdose patients. At. St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, synthetic drugs are now among the most common types of overdoses cases, second only to prescription drugs.

"I would say it's one of the more common drug overdoses we see here," Dr. Mark Kricheff, an ER physician at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, said.

According to Dr. Kricheff, symptoms include seizures, kidney failure, heart palpitations and long-term brain damage. "The kidney problems can be permanent, requiring dialysis."

Although the drugs are marketed a legal alternative to marijuana, the actual substance has nothing to do with the cannabis plant. Instead, synthetic drugs are made with any one of an infinite number of chemical compounds that only mimic the same high caused by smoking a joint.

Because it's almost impossible to know which chemical compound to look for, doctors say the symptoms can be unpredictable. The search for the culprit chemicals also leaves law enforcement one step behind manufacturers. Every time a newly chemical compound is identified and banned, drug designers simply substitute a different, and legal, compound to create the same effect.

For now, tracking manufacturers and shutting down local distributors is the most local officials can do to fight the synthetic drugs.

See the link below to search for drug and rehabilitation facilities near you.

http://www.treatment-centers.net/directory/indiana/south-bend.html
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