Why Synthetic Drug Overdoses Are On The Rise In Boise

Jack works undercover, buying drugs from Boise dealers. He is a Boise Police Department detective, and he's seeing a troubling increase in the number of people overdosing on synthetic drugs.

BPD has found that these new man-made chemicals are replacing better known street drugs, like ecstasy or LSD. And officers are worried that users are being duped into taking the more potent synthetics.

“These drugs can, and have proven to kill people," says Jack. Because he works undercover, we’ve changed his name, and his voice, to protect his identity. Jack is worried about the effects of a fairly new class of synthetic drugs.

Jack explains that the synthetics started showing up in Boise in 2010, mostly spice, synthetic cannabinoids, and designer drugs known as bath salts.

Then the new ones came along, 25i and 25c, which are synthetic phenethylamines. 25i or NBOMe is a hallucinogen, often compared to LSD. It can be inhaled, swallowed, injected, or snorted. After that, Jack says, anything can happen.

“The best thing I can tell you is extremely unpredictable, violence, hyperthermia," explains Jack, "where people are getting overheated, elevated heart rates to the point where they’re stripping off clothing and acting extremely erratic.”

The drugs can cause seizures, kidney damage, bleeding in the brain and heart failure.Boise Police detectives report that synthetic drugs are not just dangerous in the short term, there may be long-lasting effects too. But it’s not clear what those may be. The drugs are simply too new, there hasn’t been time for researchers to do long-term studies on the brain or the body.

Jack says drug users know synthetics are dangerous, and don’t usually buy them on purpose. But despite a stigma among users, the drugs are still getting on the streets. "The drug dealers name them something other than what they are. Which is what’s scary for the users.”