Drug Combo ‘Gumbo’ Wreaks Havoc in Southeast Texas

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Southeast Texas is in the midst of a gumbo epidemic, and it isn’t the Creole classic you may be thinking of. The “gumbo” causing problems is a combination of drugs: usually marijuana mixed with ecstasy, cocaine and PCP (phencyclidine), with some even adding synthetic marijuana into the mix. Although the drug is causing problems in Texas at the moment, the combination has been around in some form since the 1970s, and finding out more about it, the risks associated with its use and the problems it’s causing for law enforcement helps you understand the growing issue.

What’s in Gumbo?

Gumbo can be simply thought of as a drug combination that’s built around marijuana and rolled into a cigar-like package. The drugs used in combination with it can vary, but commonly include ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, PCP and synthetic marijuana. PCP is the most frequent ingredient other than marijuana, and the combination of the two is also referred to as “supergrass” or “killer joints.” Combinations like this have been popular since the 1970s and ’80s, but the re-emergence of “gumbo” is introducing another generation to the dangerous cocktail. All of these drugs carry risks in their own right; when combined, their effects can be wide-ranging and unpredictable.

Synthetic marijuana is a new addition, however, and even though it leeches off the name of marijuana, the drug is up to 100 times more potent and has been tied to deaths in recent years. It’s a “designer” drug, which incorporates synthetic chemicals not specifically outlawed (although some include illegal components) to make a marijuana-like drug that can be sold openly. Despite its “natural” appearance, the drug is actually inactive plant matter combined with an unknown mixture of synthetic cannabinoids with little reliability in terms of strength or effects. Adding this into the already risky mixture of gumbo creates a major concern for users.

Problems With Gumbo in Southeast Texas

Reports from police officers in Southeast Texas suggest that the drug is leading to an increase in related overdoses. According to Det. Marcelo Molfino of Port Arthur, “We’ve had guys breaking out car windows, we’ve had guys jump on top of cars, we’ve had guys take their families hostage.” For these reasons, officers suggest that if you suspect somebody is under the influence of gumbo, don’t approach him – calling the authorities is the safest choice.

According to the detective, while most people wouldn’t go near the mixture if they knew the effects and what was in it, some users end up trying the combination without even being aware of it. “It’s caused the effect where a marijuana user now is getting high with something that’s been put in their weed,” Molfino said. “They go bananas because it’s PCP.”

Effects and Risks of Gumbo

The problem with determining the effects of gumbo is that the combination of substances used can differ, which makes it hard to predict what will happen. In some, it produces a catatonic, “frozen” state, but other people become wild and uncontrollable, becoming combative and less sensitive to pain. A general understanding of the effects of gumbo can be gained by looking at those of the component drugs. PCP can lead to mania, delusions and hallucinations, and cocaine leads to talkativeness, irritability, nervousness and loss of appetite. Synthetic pot is like an extreme version of marijuana, but the difference in composition can lead to varied effects, including agitation, psychotic episodes, fast heartbeat and anxiety.

The risks associated with the drug cocktail are just as varied as the potential effects, but can include overdose, stroke, heart attack and organ failure. Again, the risks associated with the individual substances are all also present with gumbo, including seizures (from both synthetic marijuana and PCP), heart attacks (from cocaine), suicidal thoughts and actions, other psychological issues and many other potential risks. Moreover, addiction is a potential consequence when using any of these substances.

Getting Help for Addiction

Gumbo may present some unique challenges in diagnosis because multiple substances may lead experts to miss the impact of specific elements, but the process of treatment is the same. Treatment is always designed to address these underlying issues, so in a sense it doesn’t really matter what the substance is – the important thing to address is what led to the drug use in the first place. Gumbo is a unique danger because of the potentially fatal combination of substances, but rehab centers can help people overcome its grip. In other words, you can still get help.

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