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Stores still selling synthetic drugs despite state ban

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 23 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 24 2012 06:19:05 PM CST

A major drug bust by Berks County Detectives is shining a spotlight on a growing problem throughout the county.

READING, Pa. -

A major synthetic drug bust is shining a spotlight on a growing problem throughout the region.

More than $500,000 of synthetic drugs and paraphernalia were confiscated from Nirvana's Closet in northeast Reading on Wednesday, but 69 News learned it's not the only store still selling synthetic drugs.

The drugs are called both dangerous and unpredictable, and their effects have sent increasing numbers of both teenagers and adults to the emergency room.

"We have certainly seen people that have overdosed that have come in psychotic or almost comatose, because of too much of these drugs," said Dr. Charles Barbera, director of the Emergency Department at The Reading Hospital and Medical Center.

The drugs were made illegal in Pennsylvania six months ago. On Wednesday, Nirvana's Closet was busted for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other paraphernalia.

"John Okeefe, a 47- year-old man from Frackville, Pa., was identified as the owner of this store," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams during a news conference Thursday.

Nirvana's Closet was closed again Friday, and people inside had no comment. After the bust, officials said there are other suppliers.

"I think they are prevalent in the city as they are in the county. They're out there," said George Vogel, executive director of Council on Chemical Abuse.

69 News hit the streets Friday and looked for stores still selling synthetic drugs. We traveled to 12 shops in and around Reading and found two places willing to hand them over.

"Whether it's a parent seeing this or a kid seeing this, they need to get that info to the DA's office because it is dangerous," said Vogel.    

That's what detectives want you to do. If you know a store still selling the drugs, report it and let police know.

As for Okeefe, the owner of Nirvana's Closet, we reached out to him again on Friday, but he did not return our calls.