BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A local family is warning parents everywhere about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.
Though state lawmakers banned the substance, a local mother says it's still a big problem in Western New York and her son almost died from an overdose.
She said, "He couldn't talk. He couldn't walk. He was purple. He did stop breathing completely."
Synthetic marijuana may have disappeared from shelves on the corner store, but it is still finding its way to the street and causing terrible consequences for its young victims. It is smoked like marijuana, but is called synthetic marijuana, sometimes made with potpourri laced with chemicals. As seen in YouTube videos, it produces an intense high for its users, a high than be dangerous and even life threatening.
News 4 spoke to a 15-year-old boy from the southtowns who almost died recently from an overdose. He and his mother want to save others from going through this.
The victim said, "All of a sudden I felt myself just stop breathing and after probably about 35 seconds I blacked out."
"I dropped and started hallucinating. All I remember is that when I came back, my brother helping me out the door and to the hospital."
At Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, E.R. Dr. Nathan Billings has seen in increase synthetic marijuana overdoses. The problem is not knowing what chemicals are in the systems of the victims.
"A lot of time we have no idea what they've taken, which type of synthetic marijuana it may be. Co-ingestions that they may have taken at the same time with that medicine. They just are unable to tell us," Dr. Billings said.
Common Council President Rich Fontana, who helped draw up the law banning synthetic marijuana in Buffalo, knows the terrible toll it can take on its victims. He first learned about it when he came across a teenage boy who was having convulsions.
"He was flat on the ground, hitting his head on the pavement. Convulsions on the street. A 14-year-old boy," Fontana said.
The teen victim News 4 spoke with has gone through a wrenching withdrawal from synthetic marijuana.
"Every day I'd wake up, go to the bathroom to get ready for school, and I'd puke before I went to school," the victim said. "I'd make it to school, puke, I'd be taking aspirin, whatever I can to stop my headaches."
His mother said, "That's all I want to do, save somebody's child and my own. I just...somebody's going do die."
The teen said synthetic marijuana began being sold on the black market only days after it was banned in stores.
Last May, DEA officials confiscated synthetic marijuana at an east side deli after it had been banned from stores. It had been shipped from a warehouse in New Mexico. But now it may be manufactured locally in drug houses.
"They order the chemicals off line. They buy the greens separately and they make it, make it at home, I'm assuming, and they go out, walk around and sell it to whoever asks them for it," the victim said.
Some reactions have been severe.
Dr. Billings said, "Profound hallucinations, paranoia, altered mental status. You can even have seizures. You can stop breathing with this, the synthetic marijuana."
Fontana added, "It's very important people come forward when they have information regarding the production of this material and where it's being done. Once we know, we can easily intercept these kinds of situations."
The teen's mother stated, "Know what you kids are doing. You need everybody to come together in the communities and stop it."
Synthetic marijuana can be sold as scented potpourri laced with chemicals. Initially it was added to marijuana to cover the smell of the smoke.
Kids realized the high was so intense, they began smoking the synthetic product. It is also cheaper than marijuana, but it can be deadly.
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