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Rome Police: Synthetic drug use on the rise

By 1 LEXIE O'CONNOR

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - Parents filled Rome Memorial Hospital's Classroom Wednesday night eager to learn more about synthetic drugs, what many teens are now experimenting with in an attempt to avoid drug laws.

"We're seeing tons and tons of cases," says Rome Memorial Hospital's Substance Abuse Center's Clinical Supervisor Pamela Koagel. "Most of our adolescents in the program indicate using synthetic cannabinoids..they believe it's legal and cannot be detected."

Koagel joined Michele Caliva from the Upstate New York Poison Center and Rome Police Department Detectives Commander Timothy Bates to tell parents about the new drugs and how to recognize synthetic marijuana, what Commander Bates says in Rome is an epidemic.

"The crimes that we are seeing that we're tying back to this, the medical health issues that we're seeing, domestic violence, we're seeing burglaries that are being committed to support this habit.. it's truly a problem here," says Bates.

Not only is the synthetic marijuana legal, it's available to anyone at pawn shops, head shops, flea markets, even at gas stations.

Bates says that while the drug looks like actual marijuana its packaging is very different.

"We're seeing its packages almost geared towards kids," says Bates. "They're selling it in flavors like bubble gum and cotton candy with cellophane wrappers in bright colors."

The synthetic drugs can cause intense hallucinations, depression, suicide attempts, and even result in death.

"They're lethal, dangerous," says Koagel. "As Michele indicated, three people have died in upstate New York because of it, I know in other states they've died because of it and the clip that I showed of a boy in Pennsylvania who died because of it and reportedly - by his family - after his first use."

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is now sponsoring a bill that would prohibit the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana, to help get the new drug form off the streets.

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