Emergency room visits spike from synthetic drug use in Illinois - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Emergency room visits spike from synthetic drug use in Illinois

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WSIL -- The Illinois Poison Center has seen a huge spike in reports of emergency room visits due to synthetic drug use.

They've gotten 20 calls in the past week from emergency departments about synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K2 or "spice." Most of those calls came from the Chicago area.

Heart palpitations, psychosis, seizures and even going into a coma are just a few of the side effects. With those consequences it might make you wonder why anyone would want to do it.

One of the reasons is synthetic drugs are cheap and somewhat easy to get even though they're illegal in Illinois. K2, spice, bath salts, whatever the name, side effects of synthetic drugs can be serious, even deadly.

Drug Counselor Tim Rittenhouse has seen it first hand.

"The K2 induced a seizure and we had to call an ambulance and EMTs to come out and check on both of them," said Rittenhouse.

The drugs are very hard to test for, cheap, and their ingredients are constantly changing, making them dangerous and popular.

"The specific device that we're testing with may not pick up what they're using. So it's always questionable whether or not you are picking up somebody's drug use," said Centerstone Director Shea Haury.

Synthetic drugs first became popular about a decade ago and were sold at gas stations and head shops.

"They claimed they were totally legitimate. Well, they aren't. They are illegal," added former undercover drug agent Tom McNamara.

Synthetic drugs were outlawed in Illinois in 2011, but there is still a grey area about the legality of selling the drug in public stores.

Stricter regulations on packaging and labeling of K2 or spice make them more difficult to get than in the past, but the constantly changing ingredients make it hard to enforce.

"From a law enforcement point of view this is a nightmare, and from a prosecutor's point of view it's a nightmare's nightmare," added McNamara.

Rittenhouse says he doesn't want to see anyone go through effects caused by the manufactured drugs.

"Definitely stay away from it. I mean, any of the synthetic drugs, K2, bath salts, there's a high risk factor," he said.

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