Synthetic drug sickens kids across Michigan

Posted at 5:01 PM, Sep 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-29 11:34:28-04

WEST MICHIGAN - Parents are being warned as health officials across the state are on high alert over a new synthetic street drug.

It comes after more than two dozen young people from southeast Michigan have been hospitalized after taking a substance known as Cloud 9.

In the most serious cases two people needed psychiatric care.

Despite being illegal, medical officials say they’re seeing the drug rise in popularity as kids smoke it, drink it and inhale it in a vaporizer.

Doctors say its use could be fatal, a sentiment echoed by police.

“The drug is absolutely deadly,” Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik told WJBK in Detroit.

AB-PINACAAlso known as Hookah Relax, the liquid is made from a synthetic cannabinoid known as AB-PINACHA and chemicals found in common household items such as air fresheners and bath salts.

“Teens are getting really sick and having near-death experiences,” Jedrusik said.

Side effects include chest pain, increased pulse, high blood pressure, paranoia, agitation, suicidal thinking or behavior, even hallucinations and near heart attacks.

Dr. Aimee Nefcy, a toxicologist at Children's Hospital of Michigan Poison Control Center in Detroit, told FOX 17 there have been 25 reported cases of use, with adverse reactions between April and Sept. 12.

In two cases, kids were put into psychiatric care after mixing the compound with other drugs like Xanax and Vicodin.

The original formula for Cloud 9 is illegal, according to State Sen. Rick Jones. He says it falls under legislation signed by Gov. Snyder in 2012.Bill Signing

The law allows the Dept. of Community Health (MDCH) to contact the Board of Pharmacy, which can then begin a 10-day process to ban the substance.

However, MDCH must re-start the process when the substances chemical compound changes.

A major concern of Rhonda Miller, who is not only the owner of Shakedown Street, but also a mother, is that you never know what you’re putting in your body when it comes to these substances, or products like K2 and Spice.

“Vendors tell you it’s safe and that it’s okay to sell and they’ve done all this market research on it,” Miller said. “And then you start to sell it and you start to see people…it wasn’t a good thing.”

The products can be found inside some head shops, gas stations and convenience stores, costing about $20 for a small vial.

“Parents can be easily fooled by the packaging, which looks like an air freshener or bath salts,” Jedrusik said.

Police say teens are also smoking it with marijuana, putting it into e-cigarettes and adding it to energy drinks, becoming "garage chemists."

In Westland, police are targeting area gas stations and smoke shops in an effort to catch those selling the drug.

According to Dr. Nefcy, there haven’t been any reported cases of Cloud 9-related complications in west Michigan.