Oneida County neighbors have seen the use of bath salts and other synthetic drugs explode in Upstate New York and many want to know what can be done about the problem. At a community forum in Verona on Monday night, dozens of people asked a panel of experts if there was a way to track the manufacturers or stop the drugs from being imported.
Representatives from the Oneida County Sheriff's office explained that manufacturers try to change the chemical compounds in many synthetic drugs to avoid the law and are very difficult to track. Experts believe many of the synthetic drugs are manufactured in China or India and then distributed to stores across the country. Dr. Alexander Garrard from the SUNY Upstate Poison Control Center said health professionals still aren't sure if the chemical compounds are addictive but they are known to cause multiple serious health problems.
"One way to think about this is, it's chemical Russian roulette. You never know when the next time you use it may be your last," said Garrard.
Neighbors at the forum said they wanted more information about synthetic drugs so they could protect their children, friends and family from them. Maria Olney is worried about the health effects the drugs have on people and wanted to know more about treatment.
"See a lot of it coming into the hospitals and want to know how to take care of them," said Olney.
Lawmakers are trying to cut off the supply but Verona Councilman Fritz Scherz said more knowledge and education about synthetic drugs was also necessary to deal with the issue..
"Right now sadly, Oneida County and Onondaga County have the highest instances in New York State and I think the more people are educated about it, they learn to treat it, how to deal with it, respond to it - I think it's all going to make a positive difference," said Scherz.
The city of Utica and Oneida County have passed laws banning bath salts but law enforcement officers at the meeting said they hope New York State will make a state law making the sale a criminal offense. State laws can carry tougher penalties than local or county laws.