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Don’t be fooled by the packaging: ‘legal highs’ are deadly

Synthetic, designer drugs are addictive and highly dangerous, but are marketed to teens in appealing, nonthreatening, and sometimes even humorous packaging — often with cartoons on the label. One brand even uses Scooby-Doo as its mascot (Is nothing sacred, people? And, where are the Hanna-Barbera trademark attorneys when you need them?). These “herbal incenses,” “potpourris,” and “bath salts” can be found in gas stations, convenience stores, and smoke shops — which, again, belies their deadly effects. In an effort to combat the “harmless” image that manufacturers of these products work so hard to convey, LegitScript has compiled:

The Top 10 Most Horrifying Designer Drug News Stories

  1. 19-year-old takes “meow meow” (mephedrone), stabs his mother, and attempts to sever his own penis.
  2. Texas teenager suffers series of strokes after ingesting “potpourri” she bought at a gas station. After months of treatment, she is still blind, partially paralyzed, and suffers from severe cognitive impairment.
  3. After taking “Spice,” man kills and eats pet dog.
  4. Mother high on bath salts viciously attacks her own toddler. She is Tasered by police, and dies of cardiac arrest.
  5. 21-year-old commits suicide after taking Cloud 9 bath salts.
  6. Maryland teenager smokes K2, experiences sudden and persistent psychotic break. Attempts suicide three times.
  7. Chattanooga man suffers a psychotic episode and disappears for three days after taking herbal incense. He wakes up 300 miles from home.
  8. During a four-day period, more than a dozen New Yorkers are hospitalized after taking synthetic cannabinoids.
  9. Krokodil — a “designer drug” made from codeine, alcohol, paint thinner, and gasoline — literally rots users from the inside out. See disturbing photo here.
  10. Even celebrities are not immune: Demi Moore smokes something “similar to incense” and has a seizure.

We’ve used this space in the past to outline the dangers of these “legal highs,” but use of these drugs apparently is not slowing down. According to the DEA’s “National Drug Threat Assessment Summary” for 2013, “[t]he number and the type of synthetic cannabinoids have increased exponentially since 2008 as evidenced by the number of reports submitted to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS). According to the NFLIS, there were 29,467 synthetic cannabinoid drug reports in 2012, an increase of 1,402 percent from 2009.” Likewise, the number of calls to US poison control centers related to synthetic cathinones (often sold as “bath salts” or “party powders”) increased dramatically from 2010 (304 calls) to 2012 (2,654 calls). 

While the vendors of these products still market them as innocuous alternatives to hard drugs, as our Top 10 shows, they can land their users — or, in some cases, innocent bystanders — in a world of hurt.