Lakeview Health Doctors Warn of Issues Treating Designer Drugs: K2 & Flakka

Helping people in recovery from opioids, alcohol, or other well-known substances is difficult enough, but treatment centers also have to deal with the emergence of ever-changing designer drugs. Designer drugs are synthetic drugs that are constantly being modified to improve potency and lower costs. Rapid redesign also allows the designers to stay ahead of law enforcement, as the drugs being sold have often changed by the time the previous iteration has been made illegal. Because these drugs can cause symptoms with which doctors are unfamiliar or that mimic the effects of other drugs, diagnosis and treatment can be difficult.

“For many of the designer drugs, there is no consistent predictability of their intoxicating effects or withdrawal syndromes,” explains Dr. Kevin Holbert, Chief of Staff at Lakeview Health. “The designer drugs will also often confuse or alter the presentation of more well-known drugs of abuse: alcohol, opiates, and sedative-hypnotics.”

Two such drugs currently on the streets are flakka and K2. Flakka—also known as gravel—is highly addictive and can trigger delusions and aggression. It has seen a recent rise in popularity. The Broward County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department reported 300 cases in the first three months of 2015, compared to 200 cases in all of 2014. K2, which also goes by the names spice, incense, and potpourri, is a drug made of various chemicals sprayed on tea leaves, grass clippings and other plant material. Although it is known as synthetic marijuana because its key chemicals are often human-made versions of cannabinoids, K2 is much more hazardous and up to 100 times more potent than actual marijuana. The American Association of Poison Control Centers describes it as “extremely dangerous and addictive.”

“There is growing acceptance of narcotics in a way we have not seen previously,” added Dr. Philip Hemphill, Chief Clinical Officer. “The perception of narcotics is softened when they are packaged and delivered as prescription drugs. Marijuana is taking extreme and unnatural new forms but is still considered benign as states move towards legalization. The same is true for these designer drugs. When you can go to a mall or convenience store, you falsely believe that it is somehow not destructive. It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Lakeview Health is well situated to address addiction to designer drugs. Unlike many treatment centers, Lakeview has a large medical staff that works in tandem with the clinical staff. This year alone, Lakeview has more than doubled its physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. These medical professionals are in a better position to identify the drugs present in a patient’s body and can therefore formulate an appropriate treatment, particularly in the detoxification phase. The medical staff also supplements the care offered by the clinical staff after detox, providing patients with a holistic approach to healing.

About Lakeview Health

Lakeview Health in Jacksonville is a leading provider of drug and alcohol rehabilitation services in Northeast Florida and a nationally recognized addiction treatment center serving clients from across the country. Since it was founded in 2001, it has helped countless individuals and families begin their journey of recovery. Lakeview’s caring and committed staff is dedicated to helping clients and their families find their “True North.”


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