Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

Health, safety alert issued at high school


January 17, 2019

On Thursday, Jan. 10, a message was relayed to parents regarding a health and safety issue that has come up at the high school.

“The health and safety of our high school students is a top priority,” the message said. “At this time it is a concern that students are vaping at school, and that Juul pods containing high concentrations of potent liquids could leak onto surfaces and unaware students could come into contact with dangerous substances that can be absorbed through the skin.”

The message went on to say, “there is a dark side to vaping. It is becoming an increasingly popular way for drug users to consume a wide range of dangerous drugs. Drugs than can be smoked out of an electronic cigarette include liquid THC, Bath Salts, Flakka, Hash Oil, synthetic marijuana known as Spice or K2 as well as psychedelics known as DMT.

“On a national scale there has been a significant increase in emergency room visits from use of electronic cigarettes containing dangerous synthetic drugs. Students are told by peers that vaping is harmless and contains fun flavored ‘juice’. This is not an accurate representation of the dangers that can be associated with vaping an unknown substance. Due to the lack of smoke and odor that emits from the device, it is nearly impossible to tell what substance is being used.”

The message urged parents to speak with their students about the dangers of vaping or experimenting with it, along with the dangers high concentrated liquids may pose.


Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.

THC is a lipid found in cannabis and science points to it probably being involved in some way with the plant’s self-defense mechanism, protecting it from insects and other possible predators.

THC is listed in the United States as a Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance, however, in California it is considered legal. A synthetic form of THC has been approved by the FDA as an appetite stimulant for people with AIDS and an antiemetic for people receiving chemotherapy.

However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research shows exposure to THC during development, such as adolescence, shows notable problems with specific learning and memory tasks later in life.

Bath Salts

Bath Salts have a variety of street names, including Flakka, Cloud Nine, Bliss, Hurricane Charlie and even plant fertilizer or plant food.

A designer drug rather than something you toss in the tub to get clean, these mind-altering drugs are strong central nervous system stimulants that inhibit the neurotransmitters in the brain.

Bath Salts create the same rush as methamphetamine and is often sold as a cheap substitute for cocaine. Serious and even fatal adverse reactions are common.

All of the ingredients in Bath Salts were made Schedule I controlled substances in 2012, making them illegal.

The total experience with Bath Salts can last as long as eight hours with hallucinations and euphoria.

Acute effects can be chest pain, high blood pressure, pupil dilation, rapid heart rate and seizures.

Hash Oil

If you’ve heard the term “dabbing”, did you know it is part of the drug culture – specifically associated with Hash Oil, an extracted cannabis product that may use any part of the marijuana plant to separate the resin from the cannabis plant.

Although its been around for decades, Hash Oil in the 70s had a concentration of about 30 percent. Today’s concentration is as high as 90 percent.

Electronic cigarettes are the favorite form of smoking Hash Oil for today’s teens, although they may ingest it or use a glass water pipe and hollow tube, called a ‘nail’, heating it with a blowtorch to inhale it.

Because the extraction process requires the use of some kind of solvent like butane or ethanol, residues of those compounds are frequently found in Hash Oil. And just like the cocaine dealers in the 80s ‘cut’ their product with other substances to make their stash larger and more profitable, Hash Oil dealers are doing the same thing, but at the risk of explosion, fire or death since the cutting agents are all flammable.

Spice or K2

K2 and Spice were linked to more than 160 cases of severe bleeding and four deaths in Illinois between March and June of 2018. In August, more than 100 people overdosed in a New Haven, Conn. park within a two-day period.

Between 2010 and 2011, their use jumped by 240 percent.

These two compounds are synthetic (lab made) cannabinoids. They’re made from dried plant materials and then sprayed with mind-altering chemicals. Some may call it ‘fake weed,” but in reality, it is not.

What is in these compounds in nowhere near related to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana and are up to 100 times more potent than THC.

Its hard to even know what exactly is in these products and they can have a mixture of any number of chemicals so even the Designer Drug Research Unit of the National Institute on Drug Abuse says its anyone's guess.

Recently, the Thermopolis Police Department and Mortimore Ambulance Service have been at the high school for cases of students having issues such as seizures. Reports indicated one student was life flighted out to another hospital.

Because the calls revolve around minors, no information can be released as to who they are or what the specific issues are.

According to Thermopolis Police Chief Julie Mathews, “We have no definitive source of the problem at this time. We do encourage anyone with any kind of information to please come forward.”

Mathews said it is an ongoing, active investigation and her department is very aware and very concerned about the situation.

For parents who may be worried their student may be partaking of some of these drugs, or any other drug for that matter, home test kits are available online from Walgreens, Walmart and even Amazon.

The home test kits run about $30, and while they may not catch every drug (K2 and Spice are generally not on the list), they are quite sensitive and for the most part, very accurate.


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