'Zombie' drug hitting Valley streets

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Synthetic marijuana, known as "Spice" or "K2," is illegal but some are using to get high. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Synthetic marijuana, known as "Spice" or "K2," is illegal but some are using to get high. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Valley police, fire and emergency room doctors are seeing the strange effects of synthetic marijuana overdoses. In some cases, people using the drugs to enter a zombie-like state.

"They're glassy-eyed. They're out of it. You can say, 'Hey! What's going on?' They don't respond to you. They get agitated with very little stimulation," said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, who is the co-medical director of Banner Poison, Drug and Information Center. "All of them have side-effects and some of them are atrocious."

Synthetic marijuana, known as "Spice" or "K2," is available on the streets and in some unscrupulous convenience stores for as little as $6 for a dose. It is illegal to make or sell and drug detectives say they make busts on a regular basis.

"I'm starting to see myself an increase in the use of spice because it's cheap," said Det. Peter Walters with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

In one recent bust, MCSO found price being manufactured in a cement mixer and on the floor of a garage. The amount of profit the manufacturers can make is astounding.

"Typical investment for manufacturing, you know, $1,200 to $1,500 investment. You'll get about a $30,000 gain," said Walters.

ER doctors say the problem is that it only takes one grain of the chemical ingredient to get "high." Anything more will likely cause an adverse reaction.

"This weekend, we put somebody in a medically-induced coma because they were on this," said LoVecchio.

Authorities say the homeless population is the most at risk of using synthetic marijuana, but children are also using it.

A University of Michigan study showed 4 percent of high school seniors admitted using it and 3 percent of eighth graders admitted it.

Copyright 2017 KPHO (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

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Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards , two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. Last fall, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle, in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is a graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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