SHENANDOAH VALLEY, Va -- A drug known as “Smiles” is the latest designer drug that is popping up around the country, and Keri Jones is already on top of it. She is the coordinator of the Staunton, Augusta and Waynesboro, or SAW, Coalition at the Office on Youth in Staunton. She teaches kids about the dangers of these drugs and she said smiles one may be much worse than drugs currently in the Valley.
"It is more deadly than bath salts and more teens are getting their hands on it," said Jones.
“Smiles” is a name that Jones said appeals to kids.
"It doesn't sound like this is a synthetic drug and it's going to kill you. It sounds like a fun experiment."
One of the biggest problems with synthetic drugs like Smiles, is that it is hard to know exactly what chemicals are in the drugs.
A John Savides, a local substance abuse counselor, said Smiles causes hallucinations, rapid heart beats and psychotic episodes. He said it is like LSD and methamphetamine combined.
"People are playing Russian roulette with their brains,” said Savides. “They're taking drugs with unknown properties and unknown quantities, and they can have very bad effects, like death."
Lately, Savides has had a lot of patients, who use bath salts, but he said it is only a matter of time until Smiles gets to the Valley. That is because the Internet allows for an easy access to the drug.
"How to locate them, how to buy them, even in bulk, and also how to manufacture them, so what we're seeing with a lot of the new drugs coming along is that people can make them in their own home."
It is a drug cycle with which Mark Campbell, supervisor of the RUSH Drug Task Force in Rockingham County, is all too familiar.
"We make a change to one chemical compound, K-2, bath salts, they know where we're going and all of a sudden the new chemical compound shows up, which is another synthetic drug, another synthetic psychedelic," said Campbell.
Campbell said, luckily Smiles has not made its way to the Valley yet.
"We do have some overdose deaths. We have some deaths that these other states are dealing with and hopefully it'll stay west of us, but just like the cycle everything comes to us from the west, and we'll deal with it."
He said after dealing with a major bath salts drug problem in the Valley, his force is ready to tackle Smiles. He said the biggest issue with these new synthetic drugs is that they are made up of chemicals that may now be legal.
"Because we just banned another 119, 120 chemicals as far as bath salts are concerned, so when the Smiles gains popularity and we start dealing with that, then yes, we're going to have to deal with some law changes."
Jones said even if a drug is technically legal, it can still be life-threatening.
"But whether it's legal or illegal doesn't mean it's still not deadly and one experiment with something like that could be your last experiment," said Jones.
Both Campbell and Jones work to prevent people from using those drugs here in the Valley. They said they have made good progress with getting rid of a lot of the bath salts in the area, so they said they are prepared to stop people from using Smiles if it comes here.
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