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Synthetic Marijuana Leaves Honors Student Brain-Damaged

Update Date: Feb 05, 2013 01:45 PM EST

When most people hear the term "synthetic marijuana", they think of a plant being grown in a laboratory. However, the term is used for an assortment of herbs and chemicals that are mixed together in order to recreate the same high that marijuana produces. The drug can also cause severe side effects, like seizures, hallucinations and a racing heartbeat. Unfortunately, for one Texas family, the drug nearly cost them their daughter.

According to CNN, the Bauer family believes that Emily, a straight-A and B sophomore, started smoking synthetic marijuana - also known as K2, Spice and potpurri, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy - two weeks before she was admitted into a hospital. At around that time, she started suffering from severe migraines, ones that even sent her to the emergency room. However, at the time, she refused an MRI, because of anxiety and fear.

One afternoon, Emily complained of a migraine and decided to take a nap. That would be the last time that the family would receive a normal glimpse of their daughter. She woke up from the nap, stumbling, slurring, suffering from hallucinations and violent outbursts. The family immediately called 911; when paramedics arrived and took the 16-year-old to the hospital, she tried to bite people who were trying to help her. For fear of her safety, doctors put her into a medically induced coma.

After days in the coma, doctors told the family that Emily had suffered from several strokes. With pressure on her brain, doctors asked to drill a hole in her skull in order to relieve pressure with a tube. The following day, the neurology team showed the Bauer family the extent of Emily's injuries for the first time. The doctors said that, on a brain scan, all the white areas were dead; her mother said that it appeared that 70 percent of the scan was white.

Doctors prepared the family for the worst, saying that she would likely not recognize them or her surroundings. She would probably not regain function of her arms or leg. She would not be able to keep her throat open without a breathing tube. Three days before Emily's birthday, the family decided to take her off life support.

Surprisingly, though, Emily lived. The family is still uncovering her capabilities: she is blind, and they say that she is confused often. However, she moves her arms and legs a bit, and is able to speak in whispers.

Synthetic marijuana was linked to nearly 12,000 emergency room visits in 2010, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is impossible to predict how a person will react to the drug, chiefly because no two batches of it are the same.

A University of Michigan study found that 1 in 9 high school seniors reported using the drug within the last 12 months.

If you'd like to learn more about Emily's progress, the family has started an organization called Synthetic Awareness for Emily.

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