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Synthetic Marijuana Addiction: Cheaper Drug Within Homeless' Reach

Update Date: Dec 19, 2016 10:00 AM EST

The number of homeless falling prey to a new kind of drug and developing synthetic marijuana addiction is rapidly growing. Many are seen wandering the streets like zombies, disoriented, and with violent tendencies that threaten public safety. About 300 people have become sick in St. Louis, Missouri alone, while other states have seen similar cases. 

Investigators speaking to ABC News revealed that synthetic marijuana only costs $1 to $2, making it easily accessible to everyone. The problem has become so prevalent in Missouri that those providing services specifically to the homeless are urged not to give handouts as the money could be used to purchase the drug. 

"You factor in some of the despair or difficult circumstances that these folks are going through, and they often fall prey to the suppliers offering an outlet to deal with their unfortunate situation," Austin police Lt. Kurt Thomas said. 

Symptoms of synthetic marijuana addiction vary from person to person, and drug tests are often unable to detect this drug in a person's body. This man-made hallucinogen is even 100 times more potent than actual cannabis, according to Dr. Anthony Scalzo from the St. Louis University School of Medicine in a report on FOX News

"It was common for us to see reactions where they were violent, incoherent, sometimes catatonic on the ground," Thomas added. "Users often experience rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, anxiety, and hallucinations."

In 2015, the New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study that revealed synthetic marijuana addiction caused 20 deaths from August 2011 to April 2015. Those who survived were likely to suffer kidney failure or brain damage. 

While legislatures have put in the necessary laws to prohibit this drug. However, manufacturers constantly change the make-up and ingredients in order to avoid regulatory boards. Add in the lack of definite symptoms, and the government is facing a difficult uphill battle against synthetic marijuana addiction. 

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