A new drug that has caused eight people to overdose at Charleston-area hospitals is highly addictive and toxic, a local doctor said.
According to published reports, about eight people have overdosed and sought treatment, and three of those people were admitted to a Charleston hospital after taking an illegal drug called AM-2201, which is a synthetic cannabinoid - a drug that mimics the effects of THC. THC is the chemical found in marijuana.
According to reports, AM-2201 is the same drug used to coat ''potpourri'' or illegal drugs often labeled as Spice or K2.
Dr. Lisa Schatz, senior director of clinical services for Wheeling Hospital's pharmacy, laboratory and oncology, said the drug is dangerous in small amounts, but drug abusers tend to take even larger doses because they quickly become tolerant of it. Symptoms can include extreme anxiety, difficulty breathing, convulsions, vomiting and blackouts.
''It's so potent in small doses that they become addicted on their very first consumption. ... The side effects are extremely dangerous,'' Schatz said. ''It makes you sick as a dog.''
Local residents already have read reports of people using another illegal drug called bath salts. Schatz said while the physical symptoms of bath salts and AM-2201 can be similar, the effects of bath salts are different. People on bath salts tend to become very aggressive or violent.
For example, according to published reports, a man in Kanawha County, W.Va., told police he was high on bath salts after he allegedly stole and killed his neighbor's goat in May 2011. He was charged with animal cruelty.
Schatz noted abusers of AM-2201 find themselves having to use more and more of the drug to get the desired effect.
''People will take anything to get a little buzz. They don't think it will have any harm,'' she said.