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K2 synthetic marijuana use increasing - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

K2 synthetic marijuana use increasing

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Hempstead County, Ark. -

The use of synthetic marijuana, or fake pot, is increasing in communities across the nation, including Southwest Arkansas.
    
Health officials say it's a dangerous drug that's not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.  
    
While law enforcement is battling to keep it off the streets, some states are working to stiffen bans on the drug.

"We're recently seeing an influx and the effects of people on K2," said Sheriff James Singleton, Hempstead County Sheriff's Office.

Singleton says in the last couple of months they've had several calls involving K-2 synthetic marijuana.

He says most of them involved young people.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11 percent of nearly 15,000 high school seniors surveyed reported using K-2 in 20-11.

Sheriff Singleton says early last month three teenagers were caught using the drug at Blevins High School.

Authorities say a teacher spotted two of the teens lying down on the sidewalk.   

"It affected them in very different ways, seizure like symptoms and hallucinations," said Singleton.
 
All three students were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

"I guess they don't think it's illegal if they can buy it at a convenience store, but it's a very dangerous drug we are seeing," said Singleton.

Other symptoms reported from K-2 include a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, vomiting, agitation and confusion.

In 2010, there were more than 11,000 emergency room visits associated with synthetic drug overdose.

Just three years later that number had almost tripled to nearly 30,000 ER visits.

Sheriff Singleton says the symptoms associated with the drug are both costly and dangerous.   

"Really something medically is wrong with them, so we have to take them to the hospital. It causes a great deal of burden to the county," said Singleton.
 
In 2010, Arkansas banned the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana.

It's now a misdemeanor offense.

In 2012, President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act into law.

It banned synthetic compounds commonly found in synthetic marijuana.

In some states, K-2 manufacturers have found loopholes in the law by tweaking their formulas.

Now, Louisiana lawmakers are working to ban all synthetic marijuana and not just specific ingredients in it.

Meanwhile, Singleton says he doesn't know exactly where the K-2 products are coming from in his county, but he wants it to stop.       

"The people we've talked to that have been effected by it say they are buying it across the stateline, in Texas and other various places," said Singleton.
 
Hempstead County Sheriff Officials say they're working on a program to educate students on the dangers of the drug.
    
Currently, the synthetic marijuana market is estimated to be worth some $5 billion a year.

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