Fake pot is legal, sold in gas stations and convenience stores everywhere, and to some it sounds pretty harmless with names like “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Spice.” So called “synthetic marijuana” has left such a trail of emergency room visits and possibly even deaths in its wake that 10 states have banned it, four more are trying to, and one Florida police officer is pleading with shopkeepers not to sell it until Florida legislators follow suit, says the Miami Herald.
Counselors in Palm Beach County’s addiction recovery community say they are scared by the trend. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has fielded 1,670 calls this year from emergency room doctors and panicked members of the public over the substance. That’s up from 14 in 2009. Synthetic marijuana wasn’t even on the organization’s radar until last fall, so it’s not a perfect comparison, said the group’s spokeswoman Jessica Wehrman. This week, the Hanley Center in West Palm Beach invited school teachers, drug counselors, and medical professionals to an hourlong talk to give many of them their first lesson on the fake marijuana, which often acts on a person in a way that is nothing like the well-known weed. Marijuana highs are often associated with sleepiness, perhaps paranoia, but the symptoms poison control authorities report hearing about the synthetic version include dizziness, nausea, agitation, abnormally fast heartbeat, and hallucinations. Some patients are in a coma, others have heart dysrhythmia .