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A bag of Synthetic Marijuana. Photo from Wikipedia user 'Schorle'. Used under Creative Commons License.
The K-2 Epidemic: What It Does
K-2. Darkness. Spice. Fake Bake. Synthetic Marijuana. It's a new drug craze sweeping Marion County, and it's causing a major headache to police. It's cheap, it's easy to come by, and it's legal status isn't always clear--and that makes it the drug of choice for young people in Salem and Centralia.
"You dont know whats in these compounds, so the health risks are tremendous. A couple of times a week I have to send officers out to the hospital to corral a person who is overdosing on the stuff and having a violent reaction" says Salem Police Chief Ron Campo.
Several weeks ago, WJBD set out to talk with people directly affected by K-2. We received dozens of responses through email and facebook, and your responses helped us shed light on the problem.
One thing users and law enforcement personnel told us is that Synthetic Marijuana is somewhat of a misnomer--it isn't anything like Marijuana. Synthetics are psychomemtic, and can result in frightening hallucinations and anxiety attacks. Many users are told by suppliers that it is just like marijuana... and that gets them hooked on the addictive and mind-altering substance.
That's what happened to Salem Resident Ashley Slater.
"I was on probation and they told me that 'Oh, you can pass a drug test and get high like you're on weed', but, it definitely was not like a Marijuana High. It was like a trip. It brought anxiety and panic attacks on me" Slater said.
Ashley went to rehab for her addiction to Synthetic Marijuana--an addiction that crippled her physically and affected her 6 year old son. She asked that we use her name in order to bring to light the dangerous effects of Synthetic Marijuana. She spoke about how smoking the substance made her feel.
"It slows everything down. I could be at my sisters house for an hour, and it felt like I was there for seven hours" Slater recalled.
After time, her reaction took a turn for the terrifying. She said it felt like "Shadow People" were watching her.
"Sometimes I felt like I was dying. I couldn't breathe. I felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest" Slater said, "and then sometimes, I would have myself [hallucinating]. Once I swore the cops were coming, and there were no cops around, but I swore they were there."
Paranoia and hallucinations aren't the only side effects. Salem resident Becky Huffine's family has been hit hard by K-2. Her father, step son, and her 14 year old son have all used the drug. Her father suffered severe paranoia.
"I knew my dad was addicted to it when he stands 6'3" and 295 pounds and I stand 5'2" and 120 pounds, and he was afraid of coming over to my house because he was afraid I would assault him to the point where he would die" Huffine said.
But the most violent reaction came from her 14 son, who had a seizure on his way to school after being given K-2 and a pipe from friends who told him it was just like marijuana.
"He was on his way to school with a friend, and they smoked in an alleyway and walked two blocks, when my son got to Oglesby, he dropped to the ground" Huffine said.
His arms locked up, he had two seizures, he was vomiting uncontrollably. His friend left him on the side of the road--an onlooker happened to dial 911.
When Becky's son was brought to Salem Township Hospital, Doctors were puzzled. None of their drug tests came back positive. They had no explanation for the seizure activity.
We'll discuss why Synthetic Marijuana fooled the doctors tests during part two of WJBD's Three Part series on the Synthetic Marijuana Epidemic on Wednesday.
Check out the audio version of this story in the WJBD Audio/Visual Section.
Check out the second part of WJBD's three-part series on Synthetic Marijuana HERE.
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