IOWA CITY, Iowa - A couple dozen Iowa City area residents gathered outside of a downtown business to protest the sale of legal synthetic substances Saturday afternoon. The group "Iowans Against Synthetic" organized the picket, which turned a number of heads outside The Den, at 123 E. Washington St.
"Our daughter has suffered with this addiction for about nine months," said Amy Sorensen of Coralville. "It has just wreaked havoc on our family."
At least five downtown businesses sell synthetics, Sorensen said. Legal synthetics are typically sold over the counter to people 18 and older. They are branded as incense, but typically smoked by teens looking to get a high.
"This is what I need to grieve and move on and deal with the situation, to share my story," said Sorensen, whose 18-old-daughter has been in and out of rehabilitation programs in the last year. "We need to do something because families shouldn't have to go through this."
The protesters held signs, distributed fliers and chanted for about two hours.
"The Den is one of the largest distributors in Iowa City," said Geoff Mecham of Iowa City, whose 17-year-old stepson is currently rehabilitating from an addiction to synthetic drugs. "He said, 'by the time I get back, can you make sure it's out of the stores because sometimes I just can't stop,' so that's what I'm doing."
Synthetics, some of which have been banned, can have psychotic side effects, which have been linked to suicide.
An employee inside The Den declined to comment on the protest Saturday afternoon, but said the business does not sell "synthetic drugs."