Synthetic Drug 'Cloud 9' Causes Dozens of Hospitalizations

By John Lavitt 10/27/14

Michigan parents and state officials are taking action to protect teenagers from the synthetic cannabinoid.

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The hospitalization of more than two-dozen high school students after taking the new synthetic drug Cloud 9 has prompted Michigan parents to take action to protect their kids.

Local health officials have placed the state on high alert over the dangers of the this latest synthetic street drug. Despite being illegal, doctors across the state report seeing a rise in the popularity of Cloud 9 as kids smoke, drink, or inhale the drug in a vaporizer. Sold primarily as a liquid in eyedropper bottles, the drug is often used with e-cigarettes or "hookah pens."

Also known as Hookah Relax, Cloud 9 is made from a base of AB-PINACA, a synthetic cannabinoid refined in Japan. To make the new drug, AB-PINACA is combined with common household chemicals. These chemicals are found in common household items such as air fresheners and bath salts, and are highly toxic.

Police say teens are also smoking it with marijuana and adding it to energy drinks, becoming “garage chemists.” Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik told a local radio station, “Parents can be easily fooled by the packaging, which looks like an air freshener or bath salts…(But) The drug is absolutely deadly…Teens are getting really sick and having near-death experiences.”

Side effects of ingesting Cloud 9 include paranoia, suicidal ideation, nightmarish hallucinations, and chest pains leading to near heart attacks. In a couple of cases, high school students were admitted into psychiatric facilities after mixing the compound with prescription drugs like Xanax and Vicodin. The mixture with the prescription narcotic and the benzodiazepine led to adverse psychological reactions.

Costing about $20 for a small vial, the product can be found inside head shops, gas stations, and convenience stores in Michigan. A Westland mother said her 17-year-old daughter bought Cloud 9 at a local gas station earlier this year and became hooked. The distraught woman described what happened when her daughter finally stopped using. "She couldn't eat and couldn't sleep. My daughter dropped 30 pounds. There were three weeks of withdrawal from it.”

Wayne County's Environmental Health staff presently are conducting random inspections of suspected retailers. Businesses found selling the Cloud 9 base substances will be asked to stop selling the products or potentially face legal action.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.