Attorney General warns of new designer drug in South Dakota

Sioux Falls South Dakota's attorney general Marty Jackley is warning schools and law enforcement officers about a new designer drug in the state.

It's called 25i-NBOMe and so far, reports show the drug has claimed the lives of at least 19 Americans, including two teens in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“Schools, community members and parents need to be aware of the dangers created by the ever changing drug landscape in South Dakota. These substances are extremely addictive and create both public safety and health risks,” Jackley said.

Designer drugs are becoming extremely common, especially with young people in the U.S., and according to the experts, these new drugs like 25i, K-2 and Spice come with a wide array of dangerous uncertainties.

"We've been fairly used to the effects of marijuana and other, more traditional drugs and their side effects, but these newer drugs are more unpredictable. They're new to us, they're new to users and sometimes the dosages get very high and cause some severe side effects," Sanford Emergency Physician Robert Harms said.

Lauren Schuur, a Counselor and the coordinator of prevention services at the University of South Dakota, says many young people are attracted to these designer drugs because students believe they're safer than drugs like meth or ecstasy that are known to be dangerous. But she and other healthcare professionals say that assumption is far from true.

"One of the dangers with designer drugs is that they're unpredictable; you don't know exactly what to expect," Volunteers of America Counselor Chris Sandvig said.

"You can have a group of people that will use the same drug and everybody will react differently; some could get high from it, and some could die from it, so you just don't know," Augustana's Director of Campus Safety Rick Tupper said.

Because drugs like 25i are so new, it's also difficult for health care providers to treat or identify when someone is having a negative reaction to the drug.

"This is new to me too, and that's part of the emergency room business is to be aware…at higher dosages, 25i can cause aggressive behavior, and very violent behavior, then at even higher dosages, it can lead to even cardiovascular collapse and death,' Dr. Harms said.

Despite the danger, many young people are looking to new designer drugs to avoid detection.

"Anytime you're dealing with these types of substances, it's difficult for us on the street to know what we're dealing with; you truly have to have good testing kits," Tupper said.

"It's hard for urinalysis to pick it up, so they can take a drug test and if they're doing marijuana its going to pick it up, but all of sudden this new type of drug comes out and it becomes harder. So we're also playing catch up to develop drug tests to be able to catch when someone is using these kinds of drugs," Sandvig said.

In some cases, new designer drugs may still be legal as it can take the law some time to identify the drugs that are out there, learn how to test for them and pass legislation making them illegal.

As for 25i, the DEA passed emergency legislation in 2013 making it an illegal substance in the U.S.

Jackley says this drug comes in many forms, including powder or liquid form. It can easily be mixed with food or beverages or in some instances, dried on blotter paper. 25i is dangerous because the dosage and reaction to this particular drug is unpredictable. It has similar effects of LSD causing hallucinations, disorientation
and violent behavior.

So parents of teens, if you find any kind of unusual substance, it is best to have it tested and monitor your child's behavior.

Under South Dakota law it is a felony to possess, distribute, or manufacture synthetic drugs that have similar characteristics and properties as controlled substances.