Experts encourage parents to discuss synthetic marijuana with kids

Users believe it's safer because it's legally sold


On Tuesday, San Antonio narcotics officers seized nearly $500,000 worth of possible synthetic marijuana from a gas station on the city's northwest side. Officials said the haul is evidence of how prevalent the synthetic drug is in San Antonio.

Experts in substance abuse are encouraging parents to speak to their teenagers about the dangerous product.

"They're being told it's safer than marijuana because its [sold] legal," said Andrea Salazar of the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. "They end up using it thinking they know what's in it when in actuality they really don't know what's in it. That's the most harmful part about it."

The products are legally sold as potpourri or aroma therapy incense, but they may contain substances banned by state law. The products are weighed and sold in brightly colored packages with eccentric titles like "Climax", "Scuby Snacks", or "Space Cadet". Packages are sold for as little as $15 to as much as $40. Most packages come with a clear warning that says "not for human consumption."

Salazar said the product is being marketed to attract teens who believe that since it's sold in stores it must be harmless.

"There's some really detrimental effects," she said. "Rapid heart rate, paranoia, anxiety, it can even make someone go into a psychotic break."

Police are having a difficult time keeping synthetic marijuana off store shelves because manufacturers change the chemical makeup of the product to sell it as potpourri. Some mixes contain more than 50 chemical compounds that are dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

"It's a drug because it's not on the counter," said Silvia Soto, a concerned mother. "They're hiding it so it's not something good."

Salazar said parents need to talk to their teens about synthetic drugs the same way they discuss alcohol and other addictive drugs.

"Check into it. Ask them about it," she said. "Be nosey. Don't be their friend, be their parent."

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