Increasing number of children hospitalized for synthetic drugs - CBS46 News

Increasing number of children hospitalized for synthetic drugs

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

A new national study focusing on synthetic marijuana, which is sometimes called Spice or K-2, sheds light on just how many young children are using the drugs.

Nationwide statistics show children as young as 12 years old are being admitted to emergency rooms with life-threatening conditions.

It's a growing problem that one doctor tells me is only getting worse.

The study tracked emergency room visits in 2010 - and the findings should make every parent worry.

"With other junk they're putting in these products who knows what that can do to an unsuspecting child, or an adult for that matter," said Dr. Gaylord Lopez, the director of the Georgia Poison Center.  

Lopez said worried parents call in when they realize their kids have taken synthetic drugs.

"Back in 2010 we saw cases come in, they were frequent," said Lopez. "But really, the year that took off is 2011. We saw tripling the numbers when we see this kind of call."

Some people's reactions to the synthetic drugs were so serious they ended up in the emergency room.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network just published a report studying ER visits for synthetic marijuana in 2010.

It says patients between the ages of 12 and 29 were overwhelmingly male, at 78 percent.

An estimated 8,557 emergency room visits were the direct result of synthetic marijuana, but even more striking are the high numbers of young children being seen by emergency room doctors.

Out of those 8,557 ER visits, almost half, 3,780 are children aged 12 to 17.

Georgia isn't named in the study, but it does have its tragedies.

Chase Burnett, 16, drowned in his family's hot tub - his parents found packets of synthetic marijuana near his body. Also, 14-year-old Dakota Dyer committed suicide after he smoked synthetic marijuana.

Even though incoming phone calls for synthetic drug reactions at the Georgia Poison Center aren't as high as they were in 2010, Lopez worries children will find a way to buy the illegal substances.

"This whole synthetic phenomenon is troubling because there are smart people out there using their brains for the wrong reason," said Lopez. "They're jeopardizing lives young and old for the green back and the dollar."

Synthetic marijuana and bath salts are both illegal in Georgia, but chemists circumvent the law by changing the individual compounds in the drugs.     

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