NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
DALLAS — Local Drug Enforcement Agency officials say they are investigating findings from a News 8 report that discovered synthetic marijuana sold in "head shops" throughout the region, despite being made illegal more than a year ago.
As authorities continue to investigate the October death of 17-year-old Oscar Maldonado, new information is surfacing about the drug he was smoking in the final minutes of the Plano West student's life.
While many forms of synthetic marijuana — also known as K2 or Spice — have been banned nationwide, experts say a new, more dangerous form of the drug is what's being sold in head shops in North Texas.
“We don't know what's in the package,” said Don Fielding, a licensed drug abuse counselor and addiction specialist based in Dallas. “We don't know what chemical is in that package; there's no quality control from whereever it's coming from."
Fielding said patients he is treating have told him the reformulated synthetic marijuana is more powerful than its previous incantations, and that it’s more addictive. Fielding offered taped testimonials of two of his patients who wish to remain anonymous.
According to one: “I think the withdrawal symptoms can come on as fast as using it a few days. After you've been on it a few days, it's not going to be fun stopping.”
Another former addict says smoking what's being billed now as “herbal incense” and sold over-the-counter in some convenience stores and most head shops is nothing like marijuana. He calls it habit-forming, psychedelic, and unpredictable.
"I'd describe the withdrawals from K2 like night sweats... like waking up in the morning with overwhelming anxiety,” the patient said.
Fielding says drug makers' attempts to reformulate a legal high is making it more powerful, dangerous and, something few who try it ever anticipated — addictive.