MN Teen Dies After Ingesting Synthetic Drug Purchased Online

When I researched and wrote Cybertraps for the Young, one thing that surprised me was the ease with which teens could order addictive and dangerous products from Web sites around the world. Any teen with a credit card (or access to one) could buy products intended for adults and have them shipped home or to a friend’s house. That is frightening enough for parents when the products are innately harmful but still legally and safely produced — alcohol or tobacco, for instance — but truly terrifying when the products are synthesized in a lab somewhere with little or no governmental oversight.

The latest example of this particular cybertrap occurred recently in Chanhassen, Minnesota, where authorities blamed the death of 17-year-old Alexander Snyder, a senior at Chanhassen High School, on a synthetic drug called dipropyltryptamine (also known as DTP) that Snyder and a friend ordered from a Chinese Web site. According to its Wikipedia entry, dipropyltryptamine is a psychedelic drug that boosts the “significance or intensity of music,” offers “new intensity or appearance” for colors, a “pleasant sensation of warmth, complete ego loss, [and/or] apparitions of faces.”

The events began unfolding last Sunday, when Snyder’s father called local police to tell them that his son was missing. With their assistance, Snyder’s father used a cellphone tracking device to trace his son’s phone to the nearby Lake Minnewashta Regional Park. Snyder was found lying face-up in a marshy area, suffering a seizure. He was transported to a local hospital, where he died later that night. A friend, who had also purchased the drug, was later located, treated, and released from the hospital.

According to an article posted by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, it is very easy for teens (and others) to purchase synthesized substances from overseas labs. Three years ago, President Obama signed legislation that banned synthetic drugs but enforcement is difficult. Among other things, according the NCADD, dogs are unable to detect synthetic drugs by scent, which makes border inspections more difficult.

Here are a few steps that parents can take to minimize the risk of this happening to their children:

  • Talk to them about the risks of purchasing any unknown substance over the Internet.
  • Don’t provide them with credit cards until you are confident of their maturity and responsibility, and protect your credit card numbers so that they are not misused.
  • If you see a package delivered to your child, don’t be shy about asking what it is.
  • Talk to the parents of the your children’s friends about these issues, and agree to share any information and concern.
  • Make sure your local school district is discussing these types of risks and concerns throughout its K-12 curricula.
  • Learn how to do basic digital supervision — browser history, emails, text messages, apps. It’s not surveillance until they are over the age of 18.

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