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El Paso, TX (KDBC) — Officials from the US Drug Enforcement Administration say more and more teens in the Borderland are getting a hold of a synthetic drug called "Spice" because it's being marketed by retailers as "legal" and "safe."
Experts say the drug is most popular among high school students, who use it as an alternative to marijuana. But what teens don't know, is that the drug meant to mimic pot is much more dangerous than pot itself.
It can cause you to hallucinate, have a heart attack, or even slip into a coma you don't ever wake up from.
Spice, also known as "K2," is a bouquet of herbs and spices laced with dangerous chemicals from China or India, then mixed with acetone, and later sold to kids, who smoke it like pot.
"In essence, you're smoking nail polish remover," said Special Agent, Diana Apodaca, spokesperson with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in El Paso.
The DEA says spice doesn't look like a typical drug because it's sold in foil packets and labeled as potpourri or incense, and sold to the public in gas stations or smoke shops.
But it's rarely used as an air freshener.
Instead, teens are falsely told it's a "safe" and "legal" alternative to marijuana.
"None of the synthetic drugs are safe. In fact, they are often more dangerous than the drugs they are designed to mimic," said Apodaca.
"You're playing with your life because one packet may make you feel wonderful, maybe the second packet or the hundredth packet is going to be the one that might kill you," said Ruth Rivas.
Rivas says she lost her 28 year-old son Adam to spice almost one year ago. She has since launched a campaign in El Paso called "Spice is not nice," so that this so-called "fake pot" doesn't take more lives.
"I'm just trying to get out now to the community, so I can continue to educate others about spice and synthetic drugs," she said.
Last year, the federal government banned 26 different synthetic chemicals, many of which can be found in spice.
In 2012, 19 million packets of synthetic drugs were seized across the country, and over 6800 packets of spice were seized in El Paso alone.
But according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, manufacturers of spice try and get around the restrictions by substituting different chemicals each time in their mixtures.
So far this year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has responded to almost 1200 calls about spice exposure.
The DEA frequently visits schools to give presentations to students and parents about the dangers of spice.
For more information, visit http://www.justice.gov/dea/druginfo/drug_data_sheets/K2_Spice.pdf and http://www.spiceisnotnice.org/
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