Synthetic Drug Calls Spike at Poison Control Centers

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(Memphis) The stories range from delusional to down right disturbing.

There was the face eater in Florida.

CNN interviewed a man and showed video captured by police in Bristol, Tennessee of what it was like to restrain him.

All of these incidents were blamed on bath salts.

A MidSouth mother recently shared her daughter's story with us.

Monica Henderson said her child was high on synthetic marijuana, "She then told us voices had told her to lick the microwave. Voices had told her to attack people in the home."

Baptist Desoto ER physician Dr. Kenneth Thompson says those aren't uncommon symptoms, "These bath salts have PCP like qualities so they're hallucinogenic, so these individuals may be imagining things that are truly not there."

Dr. Thompson says he's seen more synthetic drug cases over the past two years, even some resulting in death. It's happening all across the country.

"2010 there were 236 nationwide throughout the entire year, but in 2011 they exceeded that number in just the first two months," Dr. Henderson explains of statistics from Poison Control, nationally.
In Tennessee, calls about synthetic marijuana jumped from just over 30 in 2010, to nearly 200 last year. 

There was a decrease in calls about bath salts, but officials say those can also get lumped into other categories.

According to Tennessee Poison Control, of the nearly 200 calls in 2011 regarding synthetic marijuana, more than 100 were for children aged 6 to 19.

Dr. Thompson says the red flags for synthetics are similar to other drugs, "Poor performance in school, avoiding contact with the rest of the family members, erratic behaviors, very volatile, angry, agitated behaviors."

Dr. Thompson says the biggest challenge in the medical community is the fact that there is no immediate testing for synthetic drugs.

According to area drug task force officials, the same problem exists on the law enforcement side. 

They say it can take up to three months for synthetic drug toxicology reports to come back.

It's now a felony in Tennessee to manufacture or sell synthetic drugs.

Plus, the new law addresses the drugs based on pricing and even effects. 

Lawmakers say this gives manufacturers less wiggle room and gives DA's more power to prosecute.

However, moms like Henderson worry it's not enough, so she's writing legislators to ask for even stiffer measures.

Representative Johnnie Turner of Memphis says she hopes the new law will do its job, but understands the frustration, "There's much more that can be done, 'cause you know the crooks are working while we're asleep so we've got to stay awake to get ahead of the game."

Memphis Police made 47 arrests in 2011 regarding synthetic drugs and 20 so far this year. 

Legislators are hoping the new law will put even more criminals behind bars.