A package of K2 and a concoction of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals are seen in this Feb. 15, 2010 photo.(Photo: Kelley McCall, AP)
K2, Spice and other synthetic drugs that mimic a marijuana high sent
11,406 people - mostly teenagers and young adults - to the emergency
room in 2010, according to the first report on the substances from the
federal government's Drug Abuse Warning Network.
The report, the
first to analyze the impact of the popular herbal incense, found that
children ages 12 to 17 accounted for one-third of the emergency room
visits. Young adults ages 18 to 24 accounted for another 35%.
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59% of the cases involving patients ages 12 to 29, doctors found no
other substance, differing from most emergency department visits
involving illicit drugs and painkiller abuse.
Marijuana, the most popular illicit drug with 18 million regular users, sent 461,028 people to the emergency room in 2010.
report confirms that synthetic drugs cause substantial damage to public
health and safety," Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil
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Spice and K2, marketed as legal, fake pot and
labeled as herbal incense, emerged in 2009 as popular drugs among
teenagers and college students, who could purchase the substances
online and in convenience stores.
Problems quickly emerged. Doctors reported teenagers arriving in the emergency room with high fevers and strange behavior.
in Nebraska in 2010 arrested a teenage boy who had smoked Wicked X,
herbal incense coated with synthetic cannabinoids. The teen careened his
truck into the side of a house and then continued driving.
least 18 states outlawed the substances and the Drug Enforcement
Administration instituted an emergency ban. In July, Congress banned
sales of K2, Spice and other synthetic drugs under the Food and Drug
Administration Safety and Innovation Act.