Bans Of Synthetic Marijuana & “Bath Salts” Drugs Leads To Significant Drop In Reported Incidents

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NEWARK –According to data collected by the New Jersey Poison Information & Education System, and by the State Police Office of Forensic Science, reported incidents involving synthetic marijuana and so-called “bath salts” drugs have significantly declined since the state banned them.

“Before we took action to ban these dangerous drugs in New Jersey, they were sold as a so-called ‘legal high’ by shady retailers with no regard for their catastrophic side effects,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “Today it is unambiguously clear that, here in New Jersey, synthetic marijuana and ‘bath salts’ are just as illegal as cocaine or heroin. Thankfully, the numbers demonstrate that our bans on these drugs are working.”

Eric T. Kanefsky, acting director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, said, “We gave law enforcement the tools and support they needed to fight the distribution and manufacture of these drugs. As a result of these efforts, anyone pushing these toxic designer drugs now will be prosecuted in the same manner as those selling traditional street drugs.”

Six months ago, on Feb. 28, New Jersey became the fourth state to comprehensively ban all of the hundreds of possible variants of synthetic marijuana, by order of the Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. Since then:

  • Cases of individuals being exposed to synthetic marijuana, as reported to New Jersey’s Poison Control hotline, have declined by 33 percent. (From March 1 through Aug. 31, NJPIES received a total of 46 calls from emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and private residences, about individuals who knowingly used or otherwise ingested synthetic marijuana – compared with a total of 69 cases during the same six-month period in 2011).
  • The State Police Office of Forensic Science has seen a 77 percent decline in the number of synthetic marijuana incidents submitted by law enforcement – even as the number of drug submissions overall is up about 10 percent over last year. (In March, the Office of Forensic Science received 83 individual samples of synthetic marijuana substances submitted for testing by law enforcement agencies from across New Jersey – compared with just 19 submissions to the Office in July).

New Jersey banned “bath salts” drugs on April 27, 2011, also by order of the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. Since then, cases of individuals being exposed to “bath salts,” as reported to New Jersey’s Poison Control hotline, have declined by 66 percent. (New Jersey’s first reported cases of “bath salts” use occurred in January 2011.

After the drug first appeared in reports to NJPIES, the number of reported incidents in New Jersey rose dramatically during the first four months of 2011 – but markedly declined after the Division banned them. This year, NJPIES data indicates just 18 reported cases in which individuals knowingly used or otherwise ingested “bath salts” drugs between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 – compared with 53 cases during the same eight-month period last year).
Synthetic marijuana and “bath salts” drugs are associated with alarming symptoms including dangerous side effects including violent seizures, dangerously elevated heart rates, anxiety attacks, and hallucinations. Published reports indicate users have committed suicide, suffered fatal injuries, or committed disturbing acts of violence, under the influence of these drugs.

NJPIES data indicates that, although reported exposures have fallen in New Jersey, synthetic marijuana and “bath salts” drugs continue to be associated with alarming symptoms:

  • In 2011 and 2012, 87 percent of reports to NJPIES about exposure to synthetic marijuana, were called in from healthcare facilities.
  • During the same time period, 84 percent of reports NJPIES about exposure to “bath salts” were called in from healthcare facilities.

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