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Survey: Synthetic Drug Use Among Teens Is Growing

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo sees the growing dangers of synthetic drugs first hand. His office is among the first in the state to prosecute homicide charges relating to these so called bath salts.

"Don't trust it, even something coming in from a tobacco shop or a head shop. It may say it's legal but don't trust it," Palumbo said.

A March 2010 house party in Blaine ended with 10 young people being taken to the hospital. They had overdosed on the synthetic drug 2-CE, which also caused the death of one of the party-goers, a 19-year old Blaine man.

"People are not understanding what's going on when they ingest some of this. It's a much more dangerous game for those experimenting with drugs. Don't do it," Palumbo said.

Once touted as a safe alternative to marijuana, synthetic drugs such as bath salts are becoming a growing drug of choice among teenagers. That's according to a new report, "Monitoring the Future." The survey is released annually by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The report shows that while alcohol and cigarette use has dropped to a 37-year low among teens, daily marijuana use is at a 30-year peak. Additionally, one in 15 high school seniors is smoking pot on a daily basis.

A big concern is a finding that one in nine teens said they've smoked synthetic pot in the last year. That's a worry among those in law enforcement and medicine.

Dr. Gavin Bart heads Hennepin County Medical Center's addictive medicine division.

"I think there is this idea that since they are synthetic and maybe have some form of pharmaceutical origin, that they may be safer. That's absolutely not a correct assumption," said Bart.

The report also looked at the growing use of highly-caffeinated energy drink consumption among teens. It found that 33 percent of all teens consume the drinks on a daily basis. The greatest users were eighth graders, but the report concludes that consumption is down slightly from 2010.

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