(KSDK) There’s a brand new synthetic marijuana hitting the streets and it is completely different than anything the experts have seen in the past.
An 18-year-old from Granite City who smoked it and ended up in the hospital. The teen’s mother, Onashay Haeffner, describes the day she found her son after he overdosed.
“He was drawled up on the couch like a 3-year-old. He wouldn’t talk to me, was slobbering, and was crying really easy,” she said.
Soon Onashay’s son had a 106 degree fever and was having seizures, but that was tame compared to what hospital tests revealed.
“They rushed him here with renal failure and 85 percent of his muscle mass in his legs had been gone,” Onashay said.
The teen’s doctor, Dr. Anthony Scalzo of SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, said, “He had a muscle inflammation that was so severe it prevented him from walking for a while absolutely.”
Dr. Scalzo is one of the leading synthetic marijuana experts in the country. He was the first doctor in the country to discover “synthetic marijuana” and was assigned to this local teen’s case. But, these were symptoms even Dr. Scalzo had never seen.
“It’s back in Missouri with a vengeance in terms of the toxicity,” Dr. Scalzo said.
Since its discovery in 2009, synthetic marijuana always had speedy symptoms like racing heartbeat and high blood pressure.
The new product on the streets, often called “plutonium,” leaves users with the exact opposite experience. They suffer from low blood pressure, a slowed heart rate, and sometimes coma, respiratory arrest, and kidney injury.
Due to these tricky new symptoms, the Missouri Poison Center put every emergency room in the state on alert. And since this new product showed up there has been a spike in synthetic marijuana cases.
In March, the Missouri Poison Center received only two calls about exposure to synthetic marijuana. That number grew by more than 500 percent in April with 13 exposure calls including one death in St. Louis. As of May 12, not even halfway through the month, the center already has had 10 exposure calls.
“I think we’re just the tip of the iceberg of what’s really going on and reported out there. We really have no idea,” said Julie Weber, director of the Missouri Poison Center.
Onashay’s son was so sick he didn’t even realize he was in the hospital for the first three days.
“He said ‘mom, this plutonium was something totally different. I thought I was going to die.’ He said it was way stronger, he said he was hallucinating,” Onashay described.
The teen was hospitalized for a total of 11 days.
“You might smoke one hit and your heart stops, you might smoke for three days and your kidneys fail,” said Dr. Scalzo.
Synthetic marijuana is nothing like regular pot. It is any plant vegetation that is sprayed with a dangerous chemical. The majority of synthetic marijuana is legal. The producers tweak the chemical compound in order to skirt the DEA’s list of illegal drugs. In the last five years, there have been hundreds of chemical compounds, making it very difficult for the federal government to keep up.