Herbal product being used as a legal way to get high

By Taylor Hemness - bio | email

"Tiffany" didn't want to be identified when she described the most powerful high she's ever experienced.

"Another time I thought everyone looked like they were blue, but it's just the lights playing tricks on your eyes, and your mind's not in its correct state," she said. "I really didn't think it would be possible to get the kind of high that you get off marijuana, but it's legal. So I was very skeptical at first, but when I tried it, it really does work."

"Tiffany" has used marijuana, but that's not what produced the high that she's describing.

The product she's referencing is called K2, and you can find evidence of it being used all over the Internet.

You can also find it right here in East Texas. Dragon's Breath in Tyler is just one of the stores that sells K2, and it's one of the store's most popular items.

"I see everyone in here, and they're all interested in K2," said store manager Anthony Rivera.  "I sell a lot. A lot."

Rivera says no one under the age of 18 is allowed inside his shop. He also says he's proud of the product he sells, as long as it's used the way it was intended.

"It's really like sage or any other incense that you can burn," Rivera said. "It's just an incense. It's not to be consumed, and anyone who is consuming it is abusing it."

And that abuse can have some dangerous consequences.

"We've seen a pretty steady representation of young people having psychotic symptoms, losing track of reality, hallucinating, and there have been some reports of seizure activity as well," said Dr. Eric Voth.

Voth is the chair of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, and practices internal medicine and addiction medicine in Kansas, the only state where K2 is illegal. He says the worst thing about K2 is that no one really knows what it can do.

"We've just seen it sort of explode all of a sudden, rather than dribbling along as a few cases here and there for many years," Voth said. "We just see these explosive pockets show up and that's a worry because those things tend to blow up into abuse groups."

Right now, K2 use or abuse by young people doesn't seem to be a major problem in East Texas. TISD police chief Rex Brown says he hasn't seen it on any campus, but he thinks one thing could change all that.

"For $25, you can buy 12 to 15 grams of marijuana, so K2 is running 3-5 times the price of marijuana," Brown said. "If the manufacturers ever lower their production cost, and drop the price, then yes, it could become an issue."

As for "Tiffany," she says K2 shouldn't be legal, and that she probably won't smoke it again, because there's so much about it that is unknown.

"The things I've heard, like it burns holes in your brain," she said. "And it has a lot of things that aren't natural, like marijuana is natural, so I just think that it's more harmful."

Because K2 is a legal substance, Chief Brown says a student found with it now would not be in violation of criminal law, but having it is a violation of the school district's code of conduct. Also, KLTV 7 spoke to the DEA multiple times about K2, but the agency declined comment, because it says that K2 is not yet a major area of concern in this part of the country.

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