LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Synthetic marijuana has been in the U.S. as an alternative to traditional marijuana for more than a decade, but most users don't know what they're putting in their body.
Jon Gray, Medical Director at Lake Charles Memorial Emergency Department says this synthetic drug is dangerous to people and can put people in the hospital.
"From last year, we basically have had the same steady number of patients come in per week or per month, several times a day actually,” gray said.
Gray says people often times use this drug instead of the real thing because it helps them pass drug screenings.
Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso says this is also something his deputies see on a daily basis. He says when it comes to synthetic marijuana, you never know what could be in that batch.
"People seem to think that because it's not marijuana it’s not bad for you,” Mancuso said. “I think in many cases it's a lot worse for you."
"People can have very bizarre effects from the product," Gray said.
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Gray says side effects range from passing out, to an altered mental state, to respiratory depression.
Mancuso says in many cases, use of the drug has led to self-harm or harm to others whilst in the altered mental state after using.
Mancuso says with all the serious and dangerous side effects people have been having, the number of people using has stayed consistent.
“We know we made 238 arrests last year, just for synthetic marijuana,” Mancuso said. “We’re up to around 100 already this year so we’re on track to have the same number. Try to discourage it and try to figure out some better way if they can to get them treatment and to get them help.”