According to an emergency room doctor at North Memorial Medical Center near Minneapolis, the hospital's ER is treating several patients per week who have used "bath salts" to get high. Others are treated for using synthetic marijuana. Symptoms include everything from vomiting, to seizures, to psychosis, to cardiac arrest. Many of the patients are teens and young adults who do not understand the dangers of using synthetic drugs, which are easily available online, where unscrupulous sellers apparently have no problem marketing their products.
Minnesota lawmakers would like to intervene. The problem is that cracking down on synthetic drugs is like trying to stop the flow of time. If the state identifies one set of substances to ban, manufacturers tweak their recipes to create new drugs. Online sales compound the problem. And there is the obvious difficulty in trying to enforce a ban. After all, drug laws are not exactly a rousing success. The nation has waged a war on drugs for decades. The drugs keep flowing, and people keep buying.
Is there a solution? Not an easy one, obviously.
Some of the emergency room horror stories could be useful in deterring drug use by teens. As would other drug education lessons. Fundamentally sound child-rearing is valuable, although not certain in every specific outcome. Children who gain values and interests will not turn to drugs. States and the federal government can work together to shut down Internet sites that clearly violate drug laws, if those laws can be properly tailored. We also can't disagree with those who might argue that drug users must be responsible for their own mistakes as well. Some may face terrible results, but they are stepping into a minefield the first time they choose to try something.