Poison Control Center sees increase in reactions to 'legal weeds'

Examples of "Happy Shaman" found online

They go by a number of different brands and names. They TMre called 'spice', 'herbs', and 'incense', but they TMre smoked by young people in an attempt to get high.

The drugs are often marketed as legal alternatives to marijuana. Some of the materials are laced with chemicals to induce a high or hallucinogenic effect. Experts say they can be dangerous.

The Upstate New York Poison Control Center has seen an alarming rise in calls to their hotline about overdoses and bad reactions to synthetic substances. In all of 2010, the Center says they received two calls to the hotline. Since January, there have been 40 calls with most of the callers ending up in emergency rooms, according to Michele Caliva, Administrative Director of the Poison Control Center.

It TMs been so intense this year, she said.

D r. Alexander Garrard, a clinical toxicologist at the Poison Control Center, says many people are lead to believe, just because these substances are legal they're not dangerous, when in fact, he say they are.

He points out many of the substances labeled as "spice," "herbs," or "incense" are laced with chemicals, which can be up to 10 times stronger than marijuana. Dr. Garrard feels, as soon as the government learns about the dangers of one of these substances, the manufacturers will alter the chemical makeup and produce a new strain of legal drugs. He says because we can't really keep up with it at this time, the key is to educate parents to talk to their children about the dangers.

On Tuesday, CNY Central published a story about "Happy Shaman", a chemical-laced herb that many individuals, including teenagers, use to get high. The story elicited a few dozen comments from readers and Facebook fans who are both in favor of and against banning such substances.

One reader, 'beurselftoday', said "I think the issue is all the chemicals that are put into these things. Who knows what the long term effect could be and kids are not concerned if they smoke some chemicals as long as they get high."

Another, 'Mr. Red Beard', brings up a separate topic, saying "I support the use of medical marijuana, and this new product will hamper that passing here in New York State. I have shown my support with Andrew Cuomo for this issue. I would also show my support to remove this type of product from store shelves."

Click here to read that story and join in on the conversation.