HOLLYWOOD — The Education Department’s Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting in Hollywood Nov. 17 educated parents about the dangers of social media and synthetic drugs.
“Broward County is exploding with flakka,” said Seminole Police Department Capt. Kevin Tyrie. “It would be naïve to think it’s not here on the reservation.”
Synthetic drugs – flakka is currently the most widespread – are made from man-made chemicals imported from China. The primary ingredient in flakka is alpha-PVP, a volatile and unpredictable synthetic stimulant. Other synthetics are Spice, K2, Molly and bath salts.
Broward Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ozzy Tianga showed parents videos of drug users exhibiting uncontrollable and bizarre behavior, psychosis and paranoia.
“Broward is the epicenter for synthetic drugs,” Tianga said. “Flakka is the most popular one on the streets now, but that will change.”
Tianga said between September 2014 and 2015 there were 58 deaths in Broward attributed to synthetic drugs, and hospital admissions of overdoses average about 11 per day countywide. Symptoms of overdoses include kidney failure, seizures and death.
“It is the most addictive drug there is,” Tianga said. “The drugs kill quickly. It shuts their brains down and they become organ donors.”
South Florida has long had a tradition of drug trafficking and addiction, beginning in the 1970s, Tianga said. Over the years problem drugs have included marijuana, Quaaludes, cocaine and pharmaceutical pills.
“We got rid of the pills but not the dealer or the user,” Tianga said. “They were just waiting for the next thing and it is here. This is the testing ground.”
Synthetic drugs all have methamphetamine as its base, but its chemical structure is tweaked to change the characteristic of each drug. The drugs mimic the effects of other illicit drugs including marijuana, cocaine and crack but cause unpredictable reactions and remain in the system for hours. Body temperature spikes immediately, sometimes up to 105 degrees, leading many users to crave water and tear off their clothing, Tianga said.
The drugs come in various forms including pills, capsules, powder, crystals and liquid. They can be swallowed, smoked, snorted, vaped and shot through a needle like heroin.
Parents learned that no two batches of synthetics are the same, even though some were sold in convenience stores in legitimate-looking packages. Scooby Snax, a version of Spice, was marketed to children, Tianga said.
Parents voiced concerns that their children do not understand the danger posed by the drugs.
“This is something I think the kids should see,” Melissa Demayo said. “It’s been marketed to them and it’s scary.”
Tianga blames rap music for the rapid rate in which synthetics infiltrated society. He played songs by Trick Daddy, Kanye West, Tyga and Rick Ross who all sing the praises of Molly. A video of LeBron James singing one of the songs during practice before a Miami Heat game showed how accepted the drugs have become.
“Explain to your Tribal members what is going on with these drugs right now,” Tianga said.
A second presentation during the meeting divulged hidden dangers found in popular websites and apps. Michael Gordon, president of Dataveillance, showed parents what to look for and how to monitor their children.
“Kids ages 13-18 post the most and put stuff out there that they shouldn’t,” Gordon said. “Social media is the No. 1 activity online.”
The three most popular apps for children and teens are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but they are also familiar with Snapchat, Ask.fm, Tumblr, Whisper, Yik Yak, Kik messenger and Poof. Gordon said all pose dangers because the sites allow users to remain anonymous. People are not always who they say and predators are not uncommon, he said. He offered an example of “Susan,” who was a 42-year-old man posing as a 15-year-old girl.
“They just made plans to meet at a park,” Gordon said. “Ill-intended strangers easily connect with young people. These apps aren’t good for our kids.”
Gordon said parents need to know what their children do online to protect them.
“You need to set up the settings,” he said. “You need to look at their phones to know what sites they are on. Kids can always be tracked.”