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New sound of familiar story: Purple Peddler stores hit with synthetic drug arrests

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When I read about businesses being raided by police and charged with selling synthetic drugs, I poke around a bit on the Web for what is new in this “industry.” I hope to find fresh information that can warn readers about the dangers of these substances: synthetic drugs with effects similar to methamphetamine or cocaine, which are often called “bath salts,” and synthetic marijuana, often called “spice.”

I find some weird stuff. YouTube interviews with brain-damaged overdose survivors. Police videos of addicts hallucinating. Even headlines like “Circus Elephants Test Positive for Opiates.” Some bizarre, some absurd, but mostly sad or scary. Not surprising anymore, though, not very often.

But today I found an item that caught me off guard.

Image / N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs

Examples of bath salts, a synthetic form of cocaine or methamphetamine

On a Website aimed at helping students at colleges across the country save money with coupons from various participating businesses, I found a coupon that said: The Purple Peddler Incense and Novelty Shoppe – 15 percent off to customers with a specific college ID, one from a highly regarded university in North Carolina.

On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 9, police raided the Purple Peddler’s two locations, one in Burlington, N.C., and one in Mebane. They seized 1,200 packages of what they allege to be bath salts and synthetic marijuana, some natural marijuana, cash, and 3,000 items of drug paraphernalia – pipes, scales, things like that.

Five men were charged in the raid. You can read the details of the charges in the Greensboro News & Record and the Burlington Times-News.

I’ve talked about the danger of spice before: panic attacks, heart palpitations, hallucinations, delusions, vomiting, and increased agitation. In one case in Mebane a year ago, there was evidence that two brothers may have been smoking spice before they were hit by a train – possibly too high it hear it coming.

Bath salts are usually the more dangerous drug. They can bring on extreme psychotic reactions. They’ve caused car crashes, self-mutilations, suicides and homicides.

It’s time-consuming, hard work for police to set up these stings. One in Thomasville, N.C., unfolded over a span of about 10 months. The raids on Tuesday took place after a seven-month investigation that was started after parents complained that products bought at the Purple Peddler in Burlington made their children sick.

Image / U.S. Navy

Packet of spice, a synthetic marijuana

I read these stories and pass them along, and they begin to sound the same. They bear repeating, though, to re-emphasize the threat these drugs present.

Also, our state outlawed spice in June 2011. But often manufacturers of synthetic drugs that are made illegal change their formulas, and presto – the drugs are legal again. Legal, but just as dangerous.

Parents need be able to warn their kids, watch their kids, spot the signs of danger. They need to know what substances can be found in some “novelty shoppes.” They need to know what the brand names sound like: Vanilla Sky, Blue Silk, Ivory Wave, Kush, Bliss, K2, Head Funk, a

nd so on. Trying to sound cool.

And just when I think the stories begin to sound the same I find – a 15 percent-off coupon? What a novel idea.