Last Tuesday, Kristi Le, a coordinator for the Abilene Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, spoke at the Concerned Citizens Center on the topic "Current and Changing Drug Abuse Trends." The meeting was sponsored by the Abilene organization as well as Faith Community Hospital Wellness group and Concerned Citizens of Jack County. Parents, grandparents, and community members in attendance were given a good overview of products that people, especially youth, may find enticing and possibly use as gateway drugs to more powerful and addicting substances. Since nicotine is a drug, although a legal one, parents and teachers should be aware that there is a "spitless pouch" which is like smokeless tobacco but it can be swallowed; therefore it is easy to conceal. These are also called "dissolvables." Another gateway product is alcohol flavored tobacco. These cigars look like cigarettes, but they come in all kinds of alcohol flavors. The primary drug that is abused in Texas is alcohol. Consider this questions: Is that whipped cream in your co-workers coffee just made of milk? How about alcohol-infused whipped cream? It is just another way to conceal an addiction. And for those "beginners" who want to get drunk but don't like the nasty taste of alcohol, there is now an alcohol that taste like water. How innocent looking are gummy bears? Now they come in alcohol flavors. For those who prefer to sniff their alcohol, there is a product called AWOL, alcohol without liquid. Li spent a good bit of time talking about synthetic marijuana and how dangerous its various forms can be. She said that in 1970, marijuana contained about 2 percent THC but in 2009, that drug potency had elevated to 10.1 percent. The biggest danger in marijuana is that it can be mixed with so many other things and these mixtures are not regulated by the government. One kind of synthetic marijuana is called salvia. It is NOT the garden variety flower, so Grandma's flower bed isn't in jeopardy of being used to make synthetic marijuana. It, as well as another synthetic called K2, are sold as herbal incense. The package says "not for human consumption" but drug users smoke it in marijuana pipes. It often causes fast heart beat, high blood pressure, vomiting, seizures, and other life-threatening effects. One of the biggest problems with these synthetic drugs is that they are not regulated by the government so each package is different with varying types and amounts of chemicals sprayed on them. The kind of reaction a person has one time might be totally different the next time. Cocaine is an expensive and very addicting drug. A cheap substitute that has become popular is called bath salts. Again, this is not like the bath salts ladies use everyday, but it looks a little like that. It is a federally illegal drug that people use by snorting or injecting like cocaine. It causes paranoia, insomnia, extreme anger towards oneself and others, and suicidal thoughts. Li shared that she knows a man who used bath salts two times. The first time, the reaction was not extreme. The second time caused him to become paralyzed from the shoulders down. He now works as a volunteer with her organization, sharing how devastating this has been for him, urging people not to be tempted to try these drugs. Another woman in the audience who was a nurse in another city, told that they often have people come into their ER having psychotic episodes from taking these kinds of drugs. Li also suggested to the listeners to keep their prescriptions locked up. She said that so many people, young and older, are addicted to prescription drugs these days and they often acquire them from someone's medicine cabinet. Even over-the-counter medicines can be misused in the wrong hands, so it's best to keep them locked. For parents, educators, and interested citizens who wish to learn more about current drugs and trends, Li suggested the web site www.drugfree.org. Also, their web site is www.facebook.com/prcregion2.