"Synthetic pot," "K2" or "Spice" - you've heard all the names and know the battle against it is an ongoing problem in the Bay area.
It hit the streets in 2008, and now, nearly five years later we're finally getting some hard facts on just how many people have been sickened by it.
It's a story told in numbers. More than 11,400 people nationwide were sent to the ER because of synthetic drugs. One out of every three was 18 to 24 and another third was age 12 to 17.
"I personally heard as young as 14 in our area. I'm sure there's younger," said Mark Abbott. "When the kids think it's in the corner store, my parents must know it's in the corner store, too. It must be ok."
In more than half of all cases, doctors found no other substance than K2 in their system.
That's much different than patients admitted for other illicit drugs and painkiller abuse. The report pinpoints the risk in black and white. These are the first facts we've seen as compiled from 2010 data by the federal government's Drug Abuse Warning Network.
"It doesn't surprise me a bit. We've seen it. Those statistics on paper are real people that we've talked to that have been hurt by this – kids, parents," said Denise Szulis.
Pasco County advocates have been protesting for months. They see these new numbers as proof of what they've watched happen here in Florida since 2008.
"Unfortunately, the government doesn't react until they have hard statistics, which means those are lives. When you're out on the front lines in the streets, you see the stuff every day," Abbott said.
"I have known a lot of kids that have been hurt by this. I've seen the damage that it's done," Szulis said.
The report comes just as a new law goes into effect in Pasco County, hitting retailers with a steep fine for every pack of synthetic marijuana found in a store.
"The retailers need to stop it. Stop selling it out of the counter. Stop selling it under the counter in the back room. Just stop it," Szulis said.
That law fines stores for every individual pack of K2 found on site and drug paraphernalia, too. The Pasco Sheriff's Office will be going door to door informing stores of the new law. It's a warning arrests are coming.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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