A resurgence in synthetic drug use, and worries for the future

The Upstate New York Poison Center saw a threefold increase in calls about synthetic drugs last year, as there was a resurgence in use of these chemicals.

Lee Livermore, a public education health coordinator, says these synthetic cannabinoids seem to have become a drug of choice for many abusters. There were a total of 290 calls about overdoses of these synthetic drugs last year to the poison center.

"Hallucinogenic stimulants can be anything from what your street name of molly or smiles, or 2CE or 2CI. The names continue to change but all continue to produce the same effect, where there's psychosis, strong stimulation of the brain, the central nervous system," Livermore said.

According to Livermore, the increase followed a down year for synthetic drugs, after the crackdown of over-the-counter sale of bath salts in 2012.

The poison center has also started a policy of lumping all of these synthetic drugs in the same category, preferring no to use the words "bath salts" any more.

One thing Livermore notes is that many synthetic drugs are stronger than before, with mixes of chemicals that make treatment of overdoses a challenge.

"We're definitely seeing this continuation of a trend of synthetic chemicals. And even heroin, even though it's an opioid base, it is a synthetic chemical," Livermore said. "And so people seem to be turning to these as their recreational drug of choice."

Looking ahead, Livermore worries about the next frontier of drug abuse, which could involve the increasingly popular vaping devices.

"That potentially could cover a whole range of different drugs," Livermore said. "And the vaping devices have become so popular they are really sophisticated devices. And so that is what my biggest concern is -- is looking at how the drugs will change into an oil, and then they could be used in these vaping devices."