A Cypress, Texas teenage girl suffered several severe strokes and nearly died after smoking synthetic marijuana, also known as “K2″ or “Spice.”
Emily Bauer and her friends reportedly purchased the synthetic weed packaged as “potpourri” at a gas station. Emily’s stepfather, Tommy Bryant, told CNN that the straight-A and B sophomore developed persistent migraines before ending up in the ICU early on December 8. When doctors performed an MRI on Emily, they found that the then 16-year-old girl had suffered several severe strokes.
“I’d never have thought we’d be in this situation. If she had bought it off the street or from a corner, that’s one thing, but she bought it from a convenience store,” Bryant said.
Emily had to undergo an emergency surgery which involved drilling a hole in her skull to insert a tube to relieve pressure and drain excess fluid. After the procedure, Emily’s family realized the extent of the damage to her brain.
Tonya Bauer, Emily’s mother, wrote the following in her Facebook journal: “We met with Neurology team who showed us Emily’s brain images. They told us that all white areas on images were dead. It looked to us at least 70% of the images were white.”
More than a month after that life-changing event, Emily, now blind and mostly paralyzed, continues to fight to make progress, her sister Blake Harrison wrote to CNN iReport.
Emily’s family has started a nonprofit organization called Synthetic Awareness For Emily (S.A.F.E) — the goal of which is to educate families, as well as teachers and doctors, about the dangers and warning signs of synthetic marijuana use.
Synthetic marijuana refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures sprayed with chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana. It is often labeled “not for human consumption” and marketed as a “safe” alternative to cannabis. In addition to K2 or Spice, synthetic marijuana is known by several other street names, such as fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, and Moon Rocks. A recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) linked synthetic marijuana to over 11,000 drug-related emergency department visits in 2010.
Dr. Melinda Campopiano, a medical officer with SAMHSA, said common side effects to smoking synthetic marijuana include bloodshot eyes, disturbed perceptions and a change in mood.
“People can become very agitated or can become unresponsive — conscious but not reacting normal to situations,” Campopiano explained.
The synthetic marijuana user may also appear paranoid or describe hallucinations. Some of the more potentially serious effects of synthetic marijuana smoking include an elevated heart rate and elevated blood pressure.