The Mount Airy News- By Terri Flagg
DOBSON — Surry County might lag behind the rest of the country in certain respects, but when it comes to the latest drug trends, being behind the times is not necessarily a bad thing.
The key is to keep it there.
“If drug use is behind the times and awareness in law enforcement, health care professionals and the community is right with the times, that’s the best combination,” John Dyben, DHSc, director of older adult treatment at Hanley Center at Origins, a treatment addiction center in Florida.
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency reported in October that marijuana concentrates are gaining popularity nationwide.
While concentrates such as hashish have been around for centuries, a new take on an old drug is a wax-like substance smoked with e-cigarettes or vaporizers.
It’s smokeless, odorless, easy to conceal and packs a more powerful punch, with THC concentrations potentially about four times higher than in marijuana plants.
Hence one of its street names: “dabs.”
Lieutenant Gregg Kirkman, an officer with the narcotics division of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, said the name comes from the saying: “just a dab’ll do ya.”
Although those high levels make the drug more appealing for users, it also makes it more dangerous.
“All of the deleterious effects are more severe, just as much as the high,” Dyben said.
The most common method for extracting the THC uses highly flammable butane, a process that has resulted in violent explosions, similar to what can happen in meth labs, and makes the product that much riskier.
“That process uses all sorts of chemicals. The chemicals are volatile themselves,” he said, and can end up in the wax. “You never know what they’re cut with. People don’t know what they’re putting inside their bodies.”
“The drug dealers and manufacturers don’t have the end users health at heart,” Dyben said.
According to the DEA, extraction labs are being reported nationwide, but most are found in California and Colorado.
“It is far more common on the West coast,” Dyben said. “It was really developed there.”
The drug, which also can be called “710” (oil flipped and spelled backwards), “honey oil” or “budder,” isn’t causing a problem locally, Kirkman said.
“We’re familiar with it but we’ve not seen any of it yet,” he said, emphasis on the “yet.”
“If it catches on there and keeps going, more than likely we will see it here,” Kirkman said.
“Years ago meth was a growing epidemic and we didn’t see hardly any of it. After a few years, now we have an abundance and we fight it every day.”
Dyben noted that people may be “dabbing” but just not getting caught.
“It’s not something that’s easily recognized by law enforcement,” Dyben said. “Part of the point is if somebody’s caught with it it looks like something else,” such as lip balm, or the paraphernalia looks like a legal e-cigarette.
“It doesn’t quite smell like it either,” he said. “If someone is out in the park and rolls up a joint you’re going to smell it for blocks.”
Ritchie Puckett, a licensed clinical addiction specialist at Daymark Recovery Services in Mount Airy, also didn’t think the drug was a problem locally.
“I’ve not had anyone come into my office and report they’re using this,” he said. “Five years up the road we’ll probably have plenty of information on it. We’ll kind of have to learn on the fly.”
Kirkman noted that being on the tail end of a trend such as this does give law enforcement a slight advantage because “we get a heads up on what we’re combating,” but will always be a challenge.
“The funny part is the trend seems to evolve too,” said Kirkman, so that by the time something becomes popular here it’s changed substantially from how it was being used or prosecuted initially.
“As of now, so far so good.”