GLOUCESTER, Va. (WAVY) - First there was spice, a synthetic marijuana substitute, then there was bath salts, a synthetic substitute for cocaine and now there's amped. Law enforcement officials say it is the latest designer drug and it's available right here in Hampton Roads.
Amped is being sold as ladybug attractant, something gardeners would use to keep good insects in their gardens and plant eating insects out. Law enforcement officials say it's similar to how spice was sold as an herbal incense and bath salts as a way to relax in a soothing tub. Law enforcement officials say this is the latest example of manufacturers trying to one up lawmakers.
A mother told 10 On Your Side her son is addicted to amped and that it has made him violent.
A former user says snorting amped made her lose her mind.
"To want to actually physically kill someone I've never been that way towards my mom we've always been best friends and she didn't know who I was and I didn't know who I was," said the woman whose identity we agreed to conceal.
The white powdery substance is sold in a small vile in a package that reads exuberance powder on top and ladybug attractant at the bottom.
"You do it, it's really, really, really hyper and then you want some more and then you do it again and you want some more," said the former amped user. "The package says it never lets you down."
Virginia's Poison Center has received five phone calls in three months from amped users and in some cases Emergency Room physicians.
"This truly is Russian Roulette," said Dr. Rutherfoord Rose, Director of the Virginia Poison Center.
Patients have been treated for increased heart rates and blood pressure, even seizures.
"The euphoria that they're after turns into a dysphoria not a pleasant experience and I think what's even more dangerous is that those behavioral effects can persist once your vital signs come back to normal and so no one knows how long they may last. No one knows the lasting effect these may have on brain chemistry," said Dr. Rose.
10 On Your Side purchased amped at a consignment shop in Gloucester.
We asked an employee why he was selling the product and he said, "It's ladybug attractant, it attracts ladybugs."
When we asked why a store that sells electronics and furniture would also sell a ladybug attractant he didn't have an answer.
Law enforcement officials are well aware of people using synthetic substances to get high.
"We know it's a problem and we're doing everything we can to try to keep the community safe," said Captain Ryan Cookson of the Gloucester County Sheriff's Office.
After Virginia lawmakers made certain chemicals illegal, manufacturers created new ones.
"There are some chemists somewhere that are able to develop these synthetic products that we just are playing catchup with as far as our legislature is concerned," said Cookson.
Captain Cookson showed us some of the synthetic drug substitutes undercover agents recently purchased around Gloucester.
The Amped we purchased says "lab certified" and lists the chemicals the product does not contain, chemicals Virginia outlawed. But the package doesn't say what ingredients are in it.
"This is a money making venture and the people making money probably don't care what happens to you because they won't even tell anybody what's in this stuff," said Dr. Rose.
"I sell them they are not for human consumption if it was against the law we would be closed," an employee at another Gloucester store selling amped said. We asked, "Do you worry at all about what people might do with them after they purchase?"
"I'm just trying to pay my bills lady that's all I'm trying to do. That's why I got a job," they replied.
"I know they're trying to pay their bills but at whose expense," said the mother who told 10 On Your Side her son is addicted to amped.
"It's all about the money they don't care what people do with it or who gets a hold of it," said the former amped user. "My life is at rock bottom."
Samples of Amped currently purchased by undercover agents are at a lab being tested to see what they contain.
Legislation that passed the General Assembly a couple of weeks ago puts an umbrella over all these substances so that legislators can keep up with manufacturers.
It will be signed into law July 1st.
Health officials at the Virginia Poison Center say amped is more dangerous because the unpredictability factor is much higher. They say you have no idea what you're getting or if the amount on the package is even accurate.
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