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Teens Purchase 'Legal Pot,' Despite Potentially Deadly Side Effects

Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Synthetic drugs that lawmakers and law enforcement officers say are potentially deadly are readily available to teenagers both online and in retail stores -- despite a push to ban what high school kids call "legal pot," an ABC News investigation found.

After 18-year-old David Rozga suddenly took his own life with a rifle last year soon after graduating high school, his parents were convinced the synthetic drugs played a major part.

"He just continued to become agitated -- indicating that he felt like he was in hell," David's father Mike Rozga said.  His girlfriend at the time said it was clear David was under the influence of something.

"David did not do this intentionally," girlfriend Carrie Jackson told ABC News.  "He was like in an altered state and, you know, he would never do this or hurt us or hurt anyone else or hurt himself."

Mike Rozga said before his death his son went to a local mall and legally purchased a K2, a product like several others meant to mimic the effect of marijuana.  An ABC News investigation found these products available on-line and at stores for anywhere from $15 to $85.

Retailers say they have their own standards and most won't sell to anyone under 18.  But ABC News hidden cameras caught two retailers -- one in New York City and one in Los Angeles -- selling Spice to a 14 and 16-year-old, respectively, without ever asking for ID.

Rozga's death has prompted lawmakers to push for a ban on the synthetic drugs, which poison control centers say have spurred a rash of emergencies.  Since 2010 alone, there have been 4,000 calls into poison control relating to the drugs and Missouri Poison Control Center Director Anthony Scalzo said the innocuous-sounding names belie sometimes devastating side effects.

Scalzo said the side effects include heart rate stimulation to exaggerated levels, extreme blood pressure elevation, agitation, paranoia, and hallucinations. "Beyond the acute effects [there] are psychiatric effects that have led individuals to harm themselves, sometimes fatally, and exhibit extreme paranoia and delusions not unlike schizophrenia or other psychoses," said Scalzo.

But retail store trade groups oppose the ban and say that as long as the products are legal, there is no reason not to sell it.

"A ban is dangerous," said Dan Francis of the Retail Compliance Association.  "Because it sends it underground.  And I'd like to ask the government what is wrong with euphoria and who gave them the right to regulate it?"

However, Detective Sergeant Brian Sher, who investigated David Rozga's death, places the blame for the boy's death directly on K2.  "I want people to know that," said Sher.  "There are nay-sayers, but I can say definitively there's just nothing in the investigation to show that.  Given what we know about K2 and Spice, David's anxiety, his feeling like he was in hell, has happened in many other cases."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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