PICKENS COUNTY, Ga. - More than a dozen students at Pickens County High School have been rushed to the hospital since January after vaping in school, officials said.
Now, the county is initiating a sweeping crackdown of drug-laced vaping juices.
Channel 2's Tom Regan was in Pickens County where investigators have seized hundreds of bottles and other vaping ingredients, all believed to have illegal synthetic drugs, from local stores.
Regan was at the Jasper Smoke Shop, which was closed after investigators found the store selling vapid additives laced with illegal drugs, some of which were getting into the hands of kids.
Regan talked to Pickens County High School principal Chris Wallace, who said that like many schools, his school is grappling with a rising epidemic of students vaping in school.
Wallace showed Pickens a few of the dozens of vaping devices and juices seized from students.
"This is an assortment of different vapes and actually the oils that go into them," Wallace said. 'We have seen some serious medical issues result from ingesting that product."
Detective Matt Rice said the side effects can be dangerous -- if not deadly.
- 10 kids shot with pellet or BB gun on elementary school playground
- After uproar, TV announcer apologizes to Ozzie Albies for comments
- 13-year-old dies after being jumped by classmates while walking home from school
"They have trouble with breathing, losing consciousness, their blood pressure is going through the roof, heart palpitations and they just pass out," Rice said.
Since January, more than a dozen students have been rushed to hospitals after overdosing while vaping in and out of school.
"It's very scary to us," Wallace said. "We have seen it first-hand."
Regan talked to one mother, whose son has been hospitalized three times from vaping.
Hope Haney told Regan her that 16-year-old son was hospitalized after ingesting drug-laced vaping additives. She said the first time he didn't take it seriously.
"They said he was unconscious, his oxygen level was 73 when they found him," Haney said. "That dreaded call again. They were taking him by ambulance. They had to use the salt to get him conscious."
Haney said now, he's taking vaping more seriously.
"The last time, he did actually say that that's how close he was to dying," Haney said.
Sheriff's drug agents recently raided five businesses accused of selling drug-infused vaping additives, seizing hundreds of vaping products believed to contain synthetic drugs.
"This is, in my opinion, more dangerous than meth," Rice said. "Our biggest fear is that we are going to a have a fatality from this."
Rice said he even got sick from the fumes.
"I lost consciousness," Rice said. "I was taken to the ER where I was there for a few hours."
Regan spoke to a store clerk who was arrested for allegedly selling illegal vaping additives.
"I didn't know it was illegal," she said. "I was told everything in this store was legit. It was on the shelf as merchandise."
Wallace said that's part of the problem.
"They don't know what is in the products. We don't know what's in them. So it's hard to treat," Wallace said.
Wallace said they've stiffened penalties for students caught vaping and have launched an awareness campaign for students and parents about the dangers of drug-laced vaping products.
This year, nearly 70 students have been caught with the products at Pickens County High School since January alone.
Investigators say the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is testing samples of products they have seized. Some have already come back positive as a schedule one narcotic, which includes LSD and heroin.
They want parents and students to know how dangerous and unpredictable the drugs are.
Two students in Forsyth County overdosed last year after vaping. Stores in Forsyth County caught selling to minors could lose their liquor license.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.