Synthetic drug test available in Austin

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by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @TinaS_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on July 22, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 22 at 6:01 PM

AUSTIN --The latest weapon in the war on drugs is now available in Austin. Labs can now test for drugs that continue to gain in popularity, but often go undetected. Bath salts and K2, or "spice," are dangerous synthetic drugs that are now illegal nationwide. However, that doesn't mean they're not out there. A new test can make sure your child or employee isn't using them.

Billie Copley is a concerned mom of three with a successful career. Both jobs keep her very busy. Recently, she caught her 14-year-old son hanging out with a crowd she suspected of smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. So she had him tested.

"He wasn't happy about it, but he did it," said Copley. "He said he wasn't using anything, so I told him to prove it, and he did."

Parents who want that same peace of mind about another group of drugs now also have the same option.

Austin's Texas MedClinic joins a small group of facilities offering a test to detect synthetic drugs.

"Their popularity was quite high because it seemed to some people that you could get around getting caught because they're not being tested for in your standard drug test," Dr. Kristen Kocurek said.

The drugs became illegal nationwide one year ago, but they are still available in Austin.

On June 26, federal prosecutors announced they indicted six Austin-area people in what the Drug Enforcement Agency called the biggest bust ever of a synthetic drug ring.

"Not only are these substances illegal, but you're playing a game of Russian roulette when you put these unregulated and unknown chemicals into your body," said United States Attorney Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas.

"If taken at high doses, they can cause paranoia. They can cause violence, anxiety, so that's one aspect. But physically it can cause high blood pressure and can be associated with heart attacks," said Dr. Kocurek. 

As the demand for the drugs increases, the danger continues to grow.

While the equipment to take the samples stay the same the test itself is always changing. That's because the drugs themselves are constantly evolving.

For Copley, the fact that science is keeping just as close an eye on these synthetic drugs as she is on her kids eases her mind.

"Anything that can help parents get a handle on their kids is a good thing," Copley said.

Samples collected at Texas MedClinic are taken in Austin and shipped off to a lab.

Results are confidential and could take up to a week.

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