Media Contact: Curtis T. Hill, Jr. (574) 296-1888

Our message for the 2014 Elkhart County 4-H Fair is simple... synthetic drugs kill. Some people may be surprised by the serious topic we are covering at the fair this year, but we need to clear up the myth that synthetic drugs are "fake" versions of substances that aren't really dangerous. Synthetic drugs are real drugs that have real dangers. They are a public safety and public health problem, and abuse of these drugs is killing our youth and destroying futures.

Synthetic drugs are poison. In 2013 the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 3,600 calls related to synthetic drug exposure, and over 1,300 calls have been reported so far in 2014. A few of the reported side effects of synthetic drug use include nausea and vomiting, chest pain, kidney damage, anxiety, hallucinations, and psychotic episodes. Youth across the country have died after ingesting synthetic drugs including Spice, bath salts and Smiles, and many more are now addicted. According to the Clemson University Professor who created some of the now-banned substances for the purpose of scientific research, "These things are dangerous — anybody who uses them is playing Russian roulette. They have profound psychological effects. We never intended them for human consumption."

While some of these substances may have been legal a few years ago, there are now over 80 specifically banned substances, and under Indiana law, "lookalike" drugs are also illegal. In Elkhart County there are cases currently pending involving people committing violent crimes while under the influence of synthetic drugs. Sellers have now had years to take these substances off their shelves and the Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will aggressively pursue criminal prosecution and civil remedies against those distributing these poisons in our community.

Synthetic drugs have disastrous effects on our youth and community, but the challenge can't be met by the criminal justice system alone. According to a national study on youth drug use, 90% of addictions start during the teenage years, however 21% of teens report they have not learned about the risks of substance abuse from their parents. The good news is that teens who report that their parents talk to them about substance abuse, show concern for them, enforce behavioral guidelines and monitor their activities also report lower rates of substance abuse. To learn more, stop by our booth in Commercial Building E, booths 6 and 7 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, July 18-26 where we will have a number of resources available which can be used by teens, parents and educators to facilitate these discussions. You can also check out a number of new pages added to our website at ElkhartCountyProsecutor.com/synthetic-drugs. In Elkhart County we all have a role to play in creating a community where our youth can grow up drug-free.