15 suffer overdose symptoms after suspected use of synthetic drug 'Spice'

Synthetic marijuana on the streets in the Hagerstown area is making people sick.  

The hospital has reported more than 15 overdoses since Saturday. Patients showed up at the emergency room of Meritus Medical Center complaining of trouble breathing, nausea, agitation and paranoia.  One patient overdosed twice.

"It's extremely dangerous. You don't know what chemicals you're putting into your body. You've got manufacturers that make different kinds," said Deputy First Class Carly Hose, a spokesperson for the Washington County Sheriff's Office.  

The synthetic drug is a mix of herbs laced with chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. It's often sold as potpourri under a variety of brands and is commonly known as "Spice."  

"You have no idea what type of chemicals they are, how much of the chemicals are in there, or how your body is going to react to it," said DFC Hose.

No one has died, but two patients were temporarily placed on ventilators. The victims were all teenagers or young kids.  The oldest one was 19 years old and the youngest was only 11. 

"I wouldn't want to try something that is fake and could kill me. I wouldn't want to do that anyways. It's just crazy," said Hagerstown resident Faith Cooper.

The Washington County Narcotics Task Force has linked one particular brand called "Strawberry Xtreme Aroma Therapy" to several of the overdoses. 

"With this particular brand, it's making people very sick and we want to get it pushed out there that this is not something they want to be messing with or that they want to ingest or smoke. It's causing people to be extremely ill," said DFC Hose.

Synthetic pot is illegal in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, but it's tough for law enforcement to keep it off the streets. Manufacturers, typically from China, change the chemical formula to stay one step ahead of the laws.  

The Washington County Sheriff's Office has not made any arrests in connection to the overdoses. The synthetic drug can be ordered online, sold person-to-person or in gas stations or convenience stores with the disclaimer that it's not for human consumption.

RELATED: 5 things to know about synthetic drugs being sold to teens



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