Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Synthetic drugs go by a slew of different names, like K-2, Spice, Legal Phunk, bath salts and more, but the one thing they all have in common is people are using them to get a dangerous high.
We’re just one step away from a national ban on synthetic drugs. The bill, which has now been approved by both the House and the Senate, is now awaiting President Obama’s signature. The Federal law would target sellers in other states, as well as the drugs' manufacturers.
Local head shops have already been forced to clear their shelves after a ban on the sale of synthetic drugs went into effect in New York earlier this year.
Two years ago, ER doctors at Crouse didn't see any patients high on synthetic drugs. But now, it's not unusual to see three people in one day.
“We’ve had patients come in with paranoia, with seizures, to the point that they were totally off the wall,” explained Dr. Michael Jorolemon, Crouse Emergency Medicine. "We, at one point this past year, had about 20 patients in here with different types of symptoms; a lot of it related to those types of substances."
Federal action may help reduce ER visits, but it's not likely to curb the appetite for the addictive chemicals. In an eight-hour shift, Twisted Headz in Syracuse gets many requests for synthetic drugs, which have already been banned by the State Health Department.
"Compared to regular marijuana, it's going to be on the streets, whether it's in a store or whether it's going to the ghetto and dealing with some person that you don't know. I feel like it's still going to be there,” said Tyler Warner, an employee at Twisted Headz.
Banning specific chemicals on the state level didn't solve the problem. Manufacturers created new drugs using different chemicals. People could cross state borders or get fake marijuana online. Federal laws cast a wider net and would give local enforcers more strength if they find out shops continue to sell under the counter.
"We're hearing that on the surface, the shops that were formerly believed to be selling these substances have now done away with that practice. I don't think that’s 100 percent accurate,” said Syracuse Police Lieutenant John Corbett.
"To have Federal legislation that would try to prevent the access is huge,” explained Dr. Jorolemon.
Twisted Headz workers told us they don’t sell fake pot anymore and they never sold bath salts because they're so addictive. The Federal bill just passed in the Senate also targets two key ingredients for bath salts. Lawmakers will work on a final version in the coming days to pass on to the President.