Small metallic bags with brightly colored labels containing the synthetic marijuana K2 is trending among teens and adults all across Texoma. K2 is a type of potpourri or herb sprayed with chemicals and can be potent to one's body.
"I've seen a lot of different kids on a lot of different kinds of drugs and this one really concerns me" said Chemical Dependency Counselor Sherry Janes.
Officials say they first started seeing the substance make its way into the area back in 2011. Also known as "botanical incense", "spice", "aroma therapy" and other nicknames, K2 is easily accessible. Users can get a hold of it at local convenience stores, smoke shops and even easier; online. Prices range from $10 all the way up to $45. Law enforcement say this substance is being smoked to get the high associated with drugs like marijuana.
Kirk Wolfe of the Wichita County Juvenile Probation Center said, "a lot of times the way they are smoking this is they would hollow out a cigar and fill it with k2 and smoke it".
Experts are now calling this one of the most dangerous abused substances on the street. Janes has been working closely with juveniles from the Wichita Falls Juvenile Justice Center since August of 2010. She has seen first-hand the devastating effects the substance has on adolescents.
"12 of the kids that have gone to patient treatment have been for K2 and one of them had to go to Red River Hospital for a couple weeks before he was even coherent enough to go to treatment" she said.
According to Janes, K2 is highly addictive triggering headaches, violent behavior and a state of psychosis in its users. It does not have the same effects as ordinary marijuana. Users are often violent, angry, incoherent and apathetic. Some have even admitted to still having the psychosis feeling even after they've stopped using it.
Back in April of 2011, the Texas Controlled Substances Act banned the manufacture, distribution, possession and sale of the product. Those caught with the substance can be charged with a criminal offense. Authorities believe manufacturers have found a loop hole, replacing the products with the tweaked and re-branded versions labeled "not for human consumption".
"Some of the components have been banned but it seems that the chemists stay one step ahead of the law and will tweak the components to make it legal" said Wolfe.
Since the law only bans specific ingredients, experts say that the only thing manufacturers have to do is alter the chemicals and put it right back on the shelves. Recently, K2 has been found not only in Wichita Falls but also in Electra, Henrietta and Burkburnett.
"We've probably had 5 of 6 cases here within the past 6 months starting about January. We see more activity in the K2 than anything else at the present" said Electra Chief of Police Johnny Morris.
This "fake marijuana" is sold in a couple Wichita Falls convenience stores with one even trading games for the drug. I was able to get a hold of the substance for just $14 at a convenience store just two blocks away from a local high school.
This growing problem can be combated if all chemical compounds related to the drug are banned. However, state lawmakers failed to pass a new bill which would have banned all forms of the drug. This is certainly a concern for many parents who want the substance off the market immediately and permanently.
"I hope they take it off the market and just get rid of it" says Pamela Calvin mother of two.
Mother of two and Texoma teacher Cindy Young is extra concerned stating "I would be horrified! And angry. No they shouldn't be allowed to sell that to anybody much less a teen".
Although a statewide ban would be most effective, plans to battle synthetic marijuana locally are also in the works. In the meantime, officials say parents can help by being more attentive at home and keeping a watchful eye on their children. Wolfe recommends parents to be nosy.
"Parents should know their kids and if their acting out of character it may not be K2 but it could be a signal" he said.
Janes also wants parents to be more aware and alert of what's going on around them. She said parents should "be more confronting for your child's safety."