(WASHINGTON) -- Young people across the country are getting a new high from a powerful substance that isn't sold by drug dealers and is perfectly legal -- synthetic marijuana. Also known as K2 or Spice, synthetic marijuana is available in states across the country, and it has the Drug Enforcement Administration deeply troubled.
Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of common herbs sprayed with synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. A disclaimer on the packages stating that it is not for human consumption allows the substance to remain on store shelves.
In 12 states, its sale has been banned by legislatures.
In the past year, there have been over 500 cases of adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana across the country, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The number has risen exponentially, with the organization only citing 6 reported incidents from the year before.
"You're basically playing Russian roulette with these chemicals," said Gary Boggs, a special agent with the DEA. "Hallucination, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure...these chemicals appear to bind to certain parts of the brain, so the potential for long-term effects are very deadly."
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