Watertown— The city of Watertown, population of 27,423, is relatively small compared to bigger surrounding cities, however drug use continues to be a problem.
According to Drug Task Force Supervisor, Chris Cuppernell of Metro Jefferson County, drug dealers are purchasing drugs from surrounding cities (NYC, Syracuse, Utica, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton). Dealers are said to purchase drugs at a low cost and then sell in Jefferson County at a higher price. The flood of synthetic drug use (bath salts and spice) has diminished since last summer with most head shops forced to shut down. “We haven’t had any recent arrests for spice lately” said Officer Cuppernell, “but that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.”
Credo Community Center for the treatment of addictions still has a steady patient base, those of which have admitted to using a new type of spice, which is mixed with what is labeled on the street as potpourri. According to Credo, the synthetic drug has over 500 cannabinoids, making it harder to detect in urine analysis and drug screenings. Executive Director of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County, Bill Bowman said that the effects of spice (also known as K2) and other synthetic drugs are often unpredictable. “I’ve seen people who use it have lung, heart problems, and of course paranoia”, said Bowman.
Synthetic drugs, especially the new spice mixture are said to mimic schizophrenic behavior: hearing voices, hallucinations, and extreme paranoia. According to Credo, patients who have come in for rehabilitation have often had schizophrenic type of symptoms after only using spice once. The new spice and other type of synthetic drugs have been known to have lasting and frightening side effects, even after short-term use.
“I have known people, that after seeing what spice and bath salts do to those that use, they are terrified and would never dare touch the stuff”, said Officer Cuppernell. Cuppernell has been working in law enforcement for 33 years with over 16 years of experience with drug task forces. Cuppernell explained that synthetic drugs have been less prevalent lately and that crack/cocaine and heroine have been on the rise. “Our case load has risen 9% since last year” said Cuppernell, “the year before that, it rose from the previous year.”
Although the drug task force has seen a decline in arrests related to synthetic drugs since last summer, Credo continues to treat teens and adult civilians for the use of synthetic drug addiction.