State and local officials joined Iowa First Lady Chris Branstad today to announce a public education campaign about the dangers of using synthetic drugs.
The drugs are marketed in brightly colored packages and are commonly sold legally as herbal incense, potpourri or bath salts.
“I am concerned by the growing number of young Iowans — some no more than fifth or seventh graders — who’re being sickened by synthetic drugs. Sometimes to the point of requiring emergency hospital treatment, or extended medical care for severe reactions. These products have not redeeming value,” Branstad says.
The First Lady appears in one of the public service announcements, while others feature a Des Moines doctor and the acting director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy. “The new campaign consists of multimedia public service messages, fact sheets, brochures, website info and professional training materials,” according to Branstad.
“The purpose of the new education effort is to increase public awareness, primarily among adult influencers.”
The First Lady says her personal message to Iowans if for parents, grandparents and other adults to tell young people about the dangers of the synthetic drugs.
“When you see or hear one of the new public service messages, please speak out against synthetic drugs. You could save a life,” Branstad says.
State officials say synthetic drug use has been reported among young people in 53 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
The Partnership at Drug-Free Iowa.com helped put together the synthetic awareness campaign. It’s president, Peter Komendowski, says he’s talked with kids and they tell him since the synthetic drugs are legally sold, they should be okay.
“So part of our effort is to just to get that word out, to put some teeth into the law, so that they can’t go buy ’em at neighborhood liquor stores and gas stations. And to get some information out there so they recognize the threat. We can’t necessarily criticize our children for making mistakes if we don’t make every effort we can to empower them to understand the nature of their own decisions,” Komendowski says.
While state officials say most Iowa retailers don’t sell the synthetic marijuana and other variations, enough do to pose a danger. Komendowski says adults and parents have to see the threat and speak out about it.
“We’ll never catch up to all the different threats that there are to children, but if we ever cease our vigilance and our efforts to make them aware of these things, that’s where well lose,” according to Komendowski. “I think proliferations like this might be an indication that in some ways we’ve gotten a little bit lax and the purveyors of have gotten into our society it’s much hard to protect our children once we let these threats in than it is to keep them out in the first place.”
Iowa outlawed some versions of the synthetic drugs in 2010 after an Indianola teen took his own life after smoking one version of the drug called K-2. State officials say legislation is still alive that would update the ban on synthetic drugs. You can see the public service announcements or the education materials on synthetic drugs on-line at: DrugFreeIowa.org.