Upstate New York Poison Center

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is pushing for legislation that would ban 22 chemicals used for making synthetic drugs. The Upstate New York Poison Center reported 500 cases involving synthetic marijuana and similar drugs in 2015. The majority of those cases occurred in Onondaga County which also had six deaths in 2015 linked to synthetic drugs.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said some of the side effects include increased heart rate, respiratory failure, paranoia and bizarre behavior.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Abuse of a common over-the-counter drug is the latest side effect of the heroin epidemic.

Loperamide, more commonly known by the brand name Imodium, is used by most people to treat diarrhea. But Upstate New York Poison Center clinical toxicologist Jeanna Marraffa says the drug is used by opioid addicts to get high, or to help with withdrawal symptoms. Marraffa says in large quantities it can activate some of the same receptors as opioids. The problem is, it can kill.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

The numbers of synthetic marijuana cases called into the Upstate New York Poison Center continues to be off the charts. Officials say there could be more than 800 by the end of the year if the cases don’t abate.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While the federal government and some state governments are looking to punish companies that sell pure powdered caffeine, local emergency personnel are getting a primer on how to deal with an overdose.

Upstate New York Poison Center toxicologist William Eggleston says it’s only a matter of time before someone dies using powdered caffeine in New York state.

"I think if the product continues to be readily available, it’s inevitable that someone is going to unintentionally misuse the product,” Eggleston said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

There’s been a spike in the number of people heading to emergency rooms in Central New York, for treatment after using synthetic marijuana.     

Christine Stork, clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center, knew there was a problem when she came to work last week.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Upstate New York Poison Center saw a threefold increase in calls about synthetic drugs last year, as there was a resurgence in use of these chemicals.

Lee Livermore, a public education health coordinator, says these synthetic cannabinoids seem to have become a drug of choice for many abusters. There were a total of 290 calls about overdoses of these synthetic drugs last year to the poison center.