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Concern over drug use increases Allison K. Sampite | Tue, Aug 16 2011 12:00 PM

Opponents call them a triple threat because they're inexpensive, accessible and legal.

Two designer drugs have made their way from Europe to the East, Midwest and South and recently landed on the West Coast.

K2 or "spice," is a synthetic substance sold to local retail stores including delis, liquor stores and gas stations.

It's labeled as incense and "not for consumption" and treated with synthetic marijuana.

Bath salts is the street name for synthetic stimulants and alternatives to methamphetamines and cocaine-type substances.

"This is something that is extremely dangerous and way too accessible to our young people," said Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda, who is a member of the Chula Vista Public Safety Subcommittee.

The subcommittee held a meeting last week to discuss the effects and laws surrounding the fake, popular drugs.

"We have to do two things; educate parents and young people and remove it from Chula Vista stores," Castaneda said.

Synthetic cannabis blends were first sold in Europe about seven years ago and are now banned in most European countries as well as several U.S. states.

Castaneda said that law enforcement and government can't act fast enough to remove the drugs from the shelves.

"There's an underground subculture of people who are using them to get high and mask the fact that they are taking drugs," he said.

In addition, the substances can evade most drug testing.

Chula Vista Police Capt. Gary Ficacci discussed the risk and effects of using spice and bath salts at the meeting last week.

"A lot of times people use it for the first time and the reaction is overwhelming," Ficacci said.

K2 or "spice" is typically sold in small plastic bags and is typically smoked. Made to mimic the effects of marijuana, the effects vary from heart rate increase and high blood pressure to agitation, vomiting, hallucinations, delusional thoughts and seizures.

Bath salts can also be smoked, but they are typically injected or snorted and are commonly distributed in powder, crystal and liquid forms.

Mike Rice is the operations manager for American Medical Response:

He said the effects of spice or K2 and bath salts vary, but include an altered level of consciousness, behavioral health reactions, increased heart rate and blood pressure and profuse sweating, according to what AMR has seen.

"There's plenty of evidence out there to say that we absolutely think it's dangerous and believe it's a problem. We are researching and training our paramedics and EMTs so they can manage these patients."

Current legislation is pending from two California bills to ban emerging synthetic drugs, including AB 486, introduced by state assemblyman Ben Hueso, and AB420, introduced by state Sen. Ed Hernandez. Hueso's bill would make it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute synthetic stimulants and the other would make it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute synthetic cannabinoids.

The police department is working with the city attorney's office to craft a law banning the sale of these substances in the city.

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