Synthetic substances that mimic marijuana, cocaine, and other illegal drugs are making users seriously ill, causing seizures and hallucinations and deaths, reports the Associated Press. Products are packaged as incense or bath salts and sold for as little as $10 at head shops. Hospitals report a sharp spike in people who show up with problems including labored breathing, rapid heart beats, extreme paranoia and delusions.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers analyzed data for AP, finding at at least 2,700 people have fallen ill since January, compared with under 3,200 cases in all of 2010. Medical emergencies related to synthetic drugs could go up nearly fivefold by the end of the year. The substances are suspected in at least 9 deaths since last year. The Drug Enforcement Administration used emergency powers to outlaw five chemicals found in synthetic pot, putting them in the same category as heroin and cocaine. Manufacturers used new formulas only a single molecule apart from the illegal ones.