Vaping of synthetic drugs poses new threat

BROWARD COUNTY, FL (CNN) – Smoke-free devices like “e cigarette” have become a popular way to break the nicotine addiction.

Vapor pens, for example, allow smokers to control the amount of nicotine they receive, but the devices are also being used to smoke synthetic drugs – which can be dangerous as well as hard for police to detect.

On any given afternoon, Broward County, FL deputies come across this.

037ABC9CA2C1493EA4138CB12FF4B28E“He told me he paid $5 for that little bag, and the high that you get will last several hours,” said Lt. Ozzy Tianga, Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Flakka is just one of the inexpensive synthetic drugs ravaging south Florida and there’s a new twist that’s making fighting these drugs even harder – e-cigarettes or vape pens.

“It’s just a huge challenge. It’s affecting our entire communities from prevention to rehabilitation,” said Lt. Tianga who says vaping drugs is so descreet, teens can do it right in school.

It used to be that if you would try to get high, it would smell.

“There is no scent. They can sit in the back of the room and they think it’s funny. They are vaping and what they are vaping, again I cannot determine…” said Lt. Tianga.

It used to be that if you would try to get high, it would smell.

“Exactly, all of it has changed,” says Lt. Tianga.

And that same secrecy makes it tough for police to know what’s inside that vape pen — they have to get it tested by a lab.

Authorities can’t determine what’s in the vape pens right away.

“In fact these individuals can smoke it right in front of you,” said Lt. Tianga.

A recent CDC study found e-cigarette use more than tripled among middle and high schools in 2014.

It’s not known how much of that is drug-related, but young vape users are posting videos of themselves getting high on Youtube.73CD881F957F49719EBB0F847E5A8332

The drug enforcement administration is so concerned because synthetics can be so dangerous – no matter how they’re ingested.

“We’ve seen time and time again where someone has overdosed and died. There are a significant number of overdoses that are occurring related to these types of drugs,” John Scherbenske, Supervisory Special Agent, DEA.

All of this is so new. No one’s keeping track.

No one knows just how many people have been injured or have died from vaping synthetic drugs, but already emergency rooms are seeing an increase and the stories are disturbing.

“I have had patients in my practice in the emergency room that I have walked in on that are actually vaping at the bedside,” says Dr. John Cunha, Holy Cross Hospital.

Doctor John Cunha says recently a patient was diagnosed after an overdose and went into a hospital bathroom on his way out of the hospital, vaped more drugs and had to be taken back to the ER.

“I think that these devices do have a role in helping people get off of actual cigarettes and that they may be proven safer in that case, but in the hands of teenagers and drug abusers, they are definitely very dangerous thing to have,” says Dr. Cunha.

Vaping devices aren’t classified as drug paraphernalia so there’s no federal age limit on who can buy them.
And shops that sell them are popping up everywhere, on the street and online.

Copyright 2015 CNN. All rights reserved.

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