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STUDY: 1 in 9 high school seniors nationwide use synthetic drugs, forum held in New Hartford

By NICOLE PITT

NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (WKTV) - The danger is very real. Studies show one in every nine high school seniors has used synthetic drugs. A forum was held at the New Hartford High School Thursday night to spread the message to teenagers and their parents.

"Unfortunately some of the people who peddle these products are really irresponsible. They make some quick money and they take products that they know are going to have a really drastic affect on people. A really unhealthy affect and take advantage of the fact that it is legal...they think with legal comes a perception of safety and we're here to tell the people it's just not so." said Paul Vitagliano, the Prevention Director at Insight House in Utica


Spice, Legal Funk, K2 - all names of synthetic drugs that can send users straight into psychosis. Up until very recently these items were marketed like cereal on store shelves- in bright colorful packages. This year legislation made them illegal-- and they've been taken off the shelves. But that isn't stopping teens from getting and using synthetic drugs. "We've had students in our local schools driving to Pennsylvania and Ohio stocking up and coming back to sell them in the hallways..for a profit," said Vitagliano.

The problem goes far beyond the halls of high school. Adults are also using in high numbers. Some people have intense reactions to the drugs. "Local hospitals and staff say it's three quarters of the people in the psychiatric ward. They are full of people who are on synthetic drugs. It can have that kind of psychotic effect on people...I mean psychosis-- is not a party," said Vitagliano.

Although synthetic drugs may be the "high" of choice at the moment, Vitigliano urges people not to forget how dangerous the traditional gateway drugs can be. "It's not the traditional cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, it's newer stuff but it doesn't change the fact that the older stuff is still very dangerous."

There has also been a lot of talk lately about legalizing medical marijuana. "We don't care if it is legal or illegal- it's addictive. That's what we care about. But the more any responsible adults push for it.. the more feeling of safety it gives the younger users. So whether they go ahead and legalize it or not...it doesn't make a difference to us but the attitudes do make a big difference," said Vitagliano. "It makes that conversation more difficult..it makes that seem like less than a big deal. We want the kids to know it's a big deal...this is a big decision they are headed for whether it's legal or not...its going to make a difference."

Vitagliano says parents need to talk to their children about the dangers. Insight House offers the following tips for parents to safeguard their kids from alcohol and other drug problems.

1. Know that parents are a key factor in influencing their teens and the decisions they make

2. Remember that teen alcohol and other drug use is a health and safety issue

3. Start at an early age and convey a NO USE message

4. Communicate clear consequences for use and follow through on these

5. Know your child's friends and their friend's parents

6. Know where your children are going and who they will be with

7. Be awake and greet your teen when they come in

8. Know that YOUR attitude and behaviors around alcohol and other drugs affect your children

9. Know that you might need the courage to be the ONLY ONE who says no

10. If you think your teen might have a problem get help. If you're not sure, call for advice

For more information contact Insight House Prevention at (315) 624-7999.

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