Doctors are warning about the dangers of potent vaping liquids made of synthetic marijuana.
They're legal to buy if you’re 18 years old. But in recent months, teens vaping the additive in school were rushed to the emergency room.
Health officials warn vaping and e-cigarette use among teens, even middle schoolers, has become an epidemic. One study says teen vaping jumped 75 percent this year -- and a growing number of teens are using vape devices to get high.
“I don't agree with it. I've never done it. But I know a lot of people who do it as school,” middle school student Alexandra Cepuchowicz said.
Authorities say some vaping liquid additives contain synthetic marijuana, many times stronger and more dangerous than real pot.
“These compounds are the same ones they used on synthetic pot almost a decade ago,” said Georgia Poison Center Director Dr. Gaylord Lopez. “They can run into problems such as unconsciousness, brain damage, seizures -- so this is really dangerous stuff."
Corey Brocker, 22, told Channel 2’s Tom Regan that within two weeks of vaping synthetic pot, he came addicted.
“Once I felt that change, I wanted to keep replicating it over and over again,” he said. "It was something I knew was causing me some psychological problems … paranoia, hypertension, just feeling of raw discomfort, a kind of dissociated mind set.”
Brocker says at times he was frightened for his safety using it.
“My heart rate was elevated, so I was kind of concerned for my physical well-being,” he said.
But he says he still had trouble trying to quit.
"I experienced some withdrawal symptoms. It was hard to sleep, I was agitated, anxious,” he said.
He says the first time he tried it, he didn’t know where it would lead.
“It's dangerous, you don't know what you're getting,” Brocker said.
Synthetic marijuana vaping additives are unregulated, and distributors are not required to list their ingredients on product labels. Users have no idea of the potency from one bottle or one dose to another.
“Someone who smokes it for the first time, they could be on death's door by the time they finish vaping and inhaling,” Lopez said.
Across the county, there are reports of teens hospitalized after vaping synthetic drugs.
That's what happened at a Forsyth County high school in May. Authorities say two teens got sick after vaping Kronic Juice at school.
"(They were) lethargic, not very clear in communications and had our staff concerned about their safety,” said Steven Honn, with Forsyth County Schools.
Students can get away with vaping because there's little odor and it's easy to conceal.
“From jump drives, to something you see that looks like a pen, they're using everything to vape with,” Honn said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement officials have issued warnings about synthetic marijuana vaping oils and liquids, but they remain available, and are easily obtained in shops and online.
Brocker, a recovering addict, works at a substance abuse and mental health treatment center in Johns Creek. His goal is to earn a doctorate in clinical psychology. He said he's glad he quit using synthetic THC.
“It's the kind of chemical that changes the way you feel. Not necessarily in a good way,” he said
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