Synthetic Drug Use Spreads

A dangerous and potentially deadly trend is sweeping through the area and one local sheriff is speaking out and warning parents. 

News Channel 20 spoke exclusively to a man who admits he has been an addict for 20 year but didn't want us to reveal his name. 

"It's a big epidemic right now," he said.

He's currently behind bars in Christian county and says he started using  synthetic drugs to feed his addiction, initially because they were legal. Last year alone, he spent about $8,000 on the habit.

"It was worse than marijuana, worse than crack," he said.

They aren't legal anymore. Governor Pat Quinn signed a law in 2011 to ban synthetic drugs like bath salts, which have a hallucinogenic effect, and K2, which is a fake marijuana.

But Christian county sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp says they're still being sold at stores here in central Illinois.

"You just have to know the password or a code word and you can get it under the counter," Kettelkamp said.

These drugs are highly addictive. The withdrawals are similar to meth and crack, according to the addict we spoke to.

"If you're on it, get off. If you're not, don't start," he said.

Law enforcement says use of synthetic drugs is becoming more popular among teens and young kids, though all ages are known to use synthetic drugs; especially because they don't show up on some drug tests.

"I'm actually surprised we haven't had more young people die because of this," the addict said.

That's exactly why sheriff Kettelkamp wants parents to do their research on these drugs and talk to their kids.

"I think it's very important for parents to educate kids - particularly young kids starting at 13, junior high - you really need to educate your children," Kettelkamp said.

At least 43 states have taken action to control synthetic drugs. At the federal level, Congress has taken steps to ban some as well; but some synthetic drugs can be purchased online.

Drugs like K2 are often marketed as "herbal incense" and labeled "not for human consumption" to mask their intended purpose.

For more information on synthetic drugs and the federal laws regarding them, click here.