Hidalgo County issued a public health advisory after a “dramatic surge” of teens and young adults needed medical attention because they smoked synthetic marijuana or “spice.”
In the past two weeks, 25 teens and young adults reported symptoms associated with synthetic marijuana use, according to Hidalgo County Health Director Eddie Olivarez.
Some landed themselves in the emergency room of Edinburg Children’s Hospital.
“Any given day, we have two to five cases of synthetic marijuana,” said Dr. Maria Camacho, a physician at the children’s hospital. “What happens are seizures. The patients get really aggressive, also get really depressive. That’s the most common symptoms.”
Synthetic marijuana users can experience an increased heart rate or psychotic episodes. Each batch of the synthetic drug is made with different, dangerous chemicals making treatment difficult, Camacho explained.
“We don’t have one specific chemical that we can say ‘Oh, that is the reason it is getting too toxic,” Camacho said. “We don’t have a specific medication to contrast the effect of the synthetic marijuana, and that can be really toxic to the rest of the organs.”
School resource officers warned local high school students about the drug, but it’s not stopping everybody.
“I’ve seen some friends trip, and they trip like pretty bad,” said 18-year-old Alberto Rodriguez, a high school student from Mission. “Some people start freaking out. They see things that isn’t there for real.”
Rodriguez said other students at school have offered to sell him synthetic marijuana, which is oftentimes marketed as legal because the packages are marked with “Not for Human Consumption”.
Rodriguez said he refused that offer.
It will take a community effort to encourage all kids to just say no to spice, Camacho said,
“The parents, the doctors, we have to be active against these drugs. We have to educate our families and our kids,” she said.
County health officials will announce their plan to address the problem at a news conference Wednesday.