Emergency rooms in South Florida have been filling up with patients who are suffering from synthetic drug overdoses and the issue has been getting significantly more problematic with the help of vapes.
Vapes or vaporizer pens are becoming the new way for drug addicts to not only get high but to also do it undercover. Without the need to light up, the pens can be inconspicuously concealed and smoked with the press of a button. While vapes iconically create large plumes of vapor, they can be used less obviously as well. In fact, the vapes are such a good cover that they can do it right under the noses of police, parents, and teachers.
And it isn’t just locally that this is happening. From big cities like St. Louis to small villages in upstate in New York, these vape pens are popping up more frequently in drug busts, and the steady rise of abuse is alarming communities across the country.
Vape Pens and Synthetic Drugs
E-cigs, vape pens, vapes, whatever you want to call them have been around for more than 10 years but just now have become a local hot commodity because of marketing to nicotine users looking for safer methods to smoking cigarettes. Also fueling the trend is the accessibility of oil concentrates. A vape pen creates an inhalable vapor with a small inner coil that slowly heats the liquid creating a vapor that is inhaled. The actual health effects of the vape used correctly have yet to really be confirmed but what people are using for them now may mean an end to the device.
Water-soluble synthetics are easily converted into a liquid concentrate that can go into the device cartridge and be vaped just like nicotine and other legal substances. It makes it nearly impossible to tell what is inside someone’s vape. It could be nicotine, but it also could be marijuana concentrate, or fruit flavored, nicotine-free “e-liquid,” popular among kids. Or worst of all it could be a deadly concoction of chemicals, usually from China, known as synthetic drugs.
“It’s the concealment method; we don’t know what is in a vape pen until we actually have it tested by a forensic laboratory,” said Supervisory Special Agent John Scherbenske of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
Local Cases in Deerfield Beach, Florida
A few weeks back, here in Deerfield Beach, FL, Lt. Ozzy Tianga of the Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested a man getting high on flakka using a vape. Flakka is a deadly and cheap synthetic drug that is also known as 5 dollar insanity and has also been making headlines in South Florida.
Days later the man who had been high on flakka was discharged from Fort Lauderdale’s Holy Cross Hospital, only to go into the bathroom, vape more drugs, and overdose again.
The scariest part is the rate at which it’s trending.
It only takes a quick search on the Internet to find examples on social media of students bragging about getting high in class, in their bedrooms, discreetly with the help of vapes.
“Look on Instagram,” said Barbara Carreno, spokeswoman for the DEA national headquarters in Washington. “You’ll see many thousands of posts by young people, snickering about smoking it in class.”
Gone are the days of getting caught smoking pot in school because you smelled like a skunk.
Among the most popular vaped synthetics, Scherbenske said, are the so-called “legal weeds” — K2 and Spice, synthetic drugs that mimic other drugs in many ways, but can have severe side-effects, too.
While most drugs have multiple forms of administration that will be explored, the modern appeal of vaping has opened up the world of drugs to more users recently. The appeal of vapes utilize fruit flavors, custom vape pens and the ‘art’ of caring for your device. The culture has brought many new users into the field, even if the original intention was to target cigarette users. Naturally, the users of vape pens will explore the options of what to smoke, unfortunately, there is very little regulation and guidance on what is safe to use.
Whatever the drug may be, the newest method for getting high is also a type of invisibility cloak and it is taking South Florida by storm.
Learn more about the most recent drug trends.