ELIZABETHTOWN — When Sarah Sandberg tried synthetic marijuana, she had a seizure and wound up in the hospital.
"It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me," said the teen, a junior at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School.
Sandberg was among many who met recently to develop a game plan for educating people about the inherent dangers of "Spice" substances such as K2 and to encourage lawmakers to ban them.
In recent weeks, a grass-roots effort to accomplish both those goals has been gathering steam.
People don't know how dangerous the substances are, said Brody Hooper, an ELCS senior.
"(I) was surprised to know how much the community didn't know about this problem."
'SOME GOT SCARED'
The substances are sold as incense under many names, including K2, Armageddon, Black Mamba, Cloud 9, Devil's Breath and Mad Hatter.
It is not intended for human consumption, say local retailers who have them on their shelves. And they are legal.
But people smoke the stuff and infuse it as a kind of tea.
"I see my friends' parents smoking with them," Sandberg said.
After what happened to her, she warns people about what can happen.
"You don't know if your life will end or you will be permanently damaged," she said. "Some of my friends got scared when they saw what happened with me, but there are still some that go to (a local store) and buy it."
Coordinated and chaired by Essex County's Office of Community Resources Director Michael Mascarenas, the meeting also featured input from law enforcement, the Essex County Department of Public Health and youth advocates and parents, many of whom are part of Bring Essex County's Strengths Together (BEST).
Hooper volunteers in the Emergency Department at Elizabethtown Community Hospital, so has first-hand knowledge of how such substances can cause adverse reactions.