SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina hospital is seeing a sharp increase in the number of patients who have used a synthetic drug that produces symptoms similar to those experienced by users of the psychedelic drug PCP.
In the past six weeks, Salina Regional Health Center’s emergency room has treated roughly 60 people who smoked the chemical-laced drug described as “potpourri,” despite a law enforcement crackdown on sellers and public education on the substance’s side effects, The Salina Journal (http://bit.ly/12z8Bzu ) reported.
Five people who had been smoking potpourri together were last weekend taken to the hospital’s emergency department, said Dr. Keir Swisher. He said 95 percent of the time, potpourri users are brought in by ambulance “either seizing, convulsing or unconscious, in a coma.”
“They’re highly agitated, a lot of rage, spitting, hallucinating,” Swisher said. “I did medical training in Chicago, where there was a lot of PCP use, and a lot of the patients resemble PCP users, with super-human strength. I’ve seen a 170-pound patient, and it took six people to hold them down so we could sedate them.”
A dose of sedatives that should be strong enough to render someone unconscious can have little effect on potpourri smokers, Swisher said.
Swisher and Lt. Bill Cox, commander of the I-135/I-70 Drug Task Force, believe the potpourri now in circulation in Salina is more potent than before.
“We’re seeing more side effects than in the past,” Cox said. “People don’t know what’s in it, or how much.”
The chemicals used often mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, found in marijuana, and there are dozens of such chemicals. Swisher said one sample of potpourri in Salina was laced with methamphetamine.
The hospital doesn’t have the equipment needed to test which chemicals have been added, Swisher said.
Many people don’t realize how dangerous and unpredictable potpourri can be, Swisher said, adding that most of the patients he has seen are 16 to 25 years old.
“Teenagers, they don’t have legal access to alcohol, and this is sometimes sold in convenience stores,” Swisher said. “It’s more accessible than marijuana, and it looks safe.”
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