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The Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department has issued a Public Health Advisory on the dangers of using synthetic drugs, such as synthetic marijuana, after a dramatic surge in teens and young adults needing medical attention for adverse reactions and potentially lethal overdoses.
A news conference was held on Wednesday, Oct. 21 in the Commissioners Courtroom. Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Chief Administrative Officer Eduardo “Eddie” Olivarez was joined by Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra, Criminal District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. and County Judge Ramon Garcia.
Olivarez said in the past two weeks there have been over 25 reports of teens and young adults with symptoms associated with synthetic marijuana use.
“This is a serious problem and a community response is needed to ensure the safety of teens and young adults and others who do not recognize the extreme risk of using these drugs,” said Olivarez. "We urge the community to participate in education prevention and intervention of using this drug."
Synthetic marijuana goes by hundreds of names such as Spice, K2, No More Mr. Nice Guy and is marketed as a “legal high.” Synthetic marijuana resembles pot but its addictive and potentially lethal high is derived from chemical compounds sprayed onto herbs and other leafy materials. The chemicals, which are produced in China or underground labs, are designed to mimic THC, the active ingredient in real marijuana. However, these drugs can be up to 100 times as potent as THC at stimulating brain receptors and are addictive. These drugs are not tested for safety and users do not know what potentially lethal chemicals they are consuming in these products.
“Some of the symptoms from using synthetic cannabis include severe agitation and anxiety, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms, seizures and tremors, intense hallucinations, psychotic episodes, renal failure and even death,” Olivarez said. “Our goal in issuing the Health Advisory is to put parents, teachers and the public on alert and to take action.”
According to Judge Garcia, the county is not the only one experiencing an increase in these cases.
"The problem is not unique to Hidalgo County - the Centers for Disease Control, DEA, and Poison Control Centers have reported significant increases in cases related to synthetic cannabis throughout the county," said Judge Garcia.
Also experiencing a surge is the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office. Deputies have conducted 99 arrests with possession with the intent to distribute, and 12 arrests with possession of synthetic cannabis, since Jan. 01, 2015.
"The Sheriff's Office realizes the growing problem in Hidalgo County," said Sheriff Guerra. “Synthetic marijuana is a serious situation; our Crime Stoppers Prevention Unit is also participating in educating the public of its dangers."
DA Rodriguez said that county officials are in the process of voicing their concern to the Texas legislature.
“We have all come together united in our concerns for the safety of our youth and of our community to raise awareness of the issue," said Rodriguez.
Currently, Raymondville in Willacy County, as well as La Grulla and Rio Grande City in Starr County all have imposed ordinances that ban the use and sale of synthetic marijuana.
View the Press Conference about the Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana >>