Pubdate: Fri, 21 Jun 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Richard Harkness
Section: Commentary
Page: B7
Note: This was in the suburban edition of The Inquirer.
Note: Richard Harkness is the superintendent of police in Tredyffrin
Township, Chester County


Dealers, Buyers And Dangerous New Substances Are Right Here In The Suburbs

A strange thing happened across the nation in the last few years. While 
many suburban residents were busy pointing fingers at the urban drug 
centers and feeling smug about being away from it all, the whole drug scene 
changed - the substances, the dealers, even the location of the sales.

You could say it all changed before our very eyes, but, more accurately, it 
changed right behind our backs.

Until only a few years ago, suburbanites typically traveled to big cities 
to buy their drugs of choice - heroin, cocaine, and crack. Today that old 
scenario has been turned upside down. Although the old standby drugs are 
still being dealt in the big cities, newer and more dangerous drugs have 
become available in recent years in suburban communities all around the 
country. These newer drugs, known as designer drugs, are becoming the 
suburbanites' drug of choice.

Designer drugs are those street drugs that are made in clandestine labs by 
people who have a limited knowledge of chemistry and access to the required 
ingredients. Needless to say, they are not made by pharmaceutical companies 
that have the expertise to manufacture such products, and they are not 
inspected or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Basically, a person acquires the ingredients and makes the product in a 
bathtub. There are no sanitary standards. No quality controls. No uniform 
methods. Just a recipe for disaster. It's no wonder that users overdose on 
designer drugs - the buyer has absolutely no idea what he or she is buying 
or ingesting.

The most dangerous medical effects of designer drugs include high blood 
pressure, increased heart rate and elevated body temperature. The chief 
side effects are grinding of teeth and clenched jaws. But keep in mind 
that, because of this bootleg product, there is no uniformity of standards, 
and hence the drug can affect everyone differently. Essentially, taking 
designer drugs is like playing Russian roulette, where you never know when 
the bullet is going to be in the chamber.

Designer drugs, such as ecstasy (known as X), ketamine (known as K or 
Special-K), GHB (known as the date-rape drug), and LSD (known as acid) are 
now readily available in suburban communities.

Designer drugs have moved into more affluent communities for obvious 
reasons: Drug users in the suburbs tend to have more disposable income, and 
they are more apt to buy drugs in surroundings where they feel most 
comfortable and secure. The old notion that "this sort of thing can't 
happen in a nice community like this" no longer applies.

Just as you may think that drug dealing goes on only in cities, you may 
also have a preconceived notion as who these designer-drug dealers are. I 
suggest that your stereotype - the dregs of society hanging out on the 
urban street corner selling their wares - could not be farther from the 
truth. Now, it may be the suburban boy or girl next door who is dealing 
designer drugs to your son or daughter.

Think about that for a moment. If designer drugs are sold mostly in 
suburban communities to suburban drug users, doesn't it also stand to 
reason that those dealing the drugs would be suburbanites?

During the last year, you might recall arrests in two cases in affluent 
suburban communities where underage kids had set up illegal "speakeasies" 
specifically for the sale of alcohol to other underage kids.

You might also recall that one author of a letter to the editor in a local 
newspaper suggested that the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of 
Business should consider these kids for future scholarships as a testament 
to their entrepreneurial spirit.

Such comments should give you some idea of why designer drugs are able to 
thrive in the current environment. I would suggest that the proper place 
for these kids is not Penn, but rather the pen - as in penitentiary.

Designer drugs have changed the face of the drug trade in recent years. 
They are being bought, sold and used by our sons and daughters, who often 
use the lure that these are not real drugs, but just designer drugs. The 
truth is that they are more potent and dangerous than the "real drugs," 
easier to make and harder to detect than ever before.

Parents need to drop the old cliches and wake up to the dangers. And youths 
need to wise up about that mysterious stuff they're putting in their bodies.

What they don't know can hurt them.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart