NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Items like Cloud 9 Bath Salts and Molly's Plant Food are cheap and readily available at local convenience stores and now people are using such substances to get high.
The products are made with a synthetic form of cocaine and perfectly legal, according to John Benitez, Managing Director for the Tennessee Poison Center.
He told Nashville's News 2 when the white powder is smoked, snorted, ingested or injected, it gives the same euphoric high you'd feel when using cocaine.
“Typically, it's like an amphetamine, like drug amphetamines in general because you to have hallucinations, [you're] feeling good, being very awake, alert,” he explained.
Benitez said in Tennessee, there have been five overdoses from synthetic cocaine reported in the last year alone.
The substances are especially popular in and around college campuses, where they are easy to get, he said.
At one Charlotte Pike convenience store, the clerk told Nashville's News 2 Molly's Plant Food is an energy pill people are taking advantage of.
News 2: “Do you know people are using Molly's Plant Food to get high? Like a cocaine high? You know that and you're selling it?”
Clerk: “They're energy pills, people take advantage of that. They're energy pills.”
Across the street, at the New Life Record Shop, co-owner Lee Lane told Nashville's News 2 he has customers asking for synthetic drugs nearly everyday but he refuses to sell them.
“I knew from the start it was just something bad for you, and I didn't want to be a part of selling something bad for human consumption,” Lane said, adding, “I could make thousands a day selling what I call poison but I refuse to sell it.”
Across town, at Jenna's Toy Box on Dickerson Pike, Nashville's News 2 found more fake cocaine for sale.
“I would never ever try this,” an employee told News 2 off camera. “I heard it's making people sick, I mean it says plant food. I don't understand.”
Side effects of synthetic cocaine include increased heart rate, nosebleeds, hallucinations, seizures and kidney failure.
Looking closely at the chemical make-up, Dr. Benitez said it's nearly identical to the amphetamine found in cocaine.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn wants the state to pass legislation banning the drug.
“We need to take a good hard look at what we need to do to get a little control of these bath salts before they do become an epidemic like meth,” he said.
A state ban may not be enough.
The fake coke was just as easy to find online at both Amazon.com in the form of Cloud 9 Bath Salts and GoFaded.com in Molly's Plant Food.
Store owners like Lane take some consolation in knowing no one will get the drugs from him.
“I can sleep better at night,” he said. “I don't need to do that and I'm not going to do that.”
Tennessee isn't the only state that is cracking down on the cheap, easy to find drugs.
Several states are taking action including Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Michigan and North Dakota.
All are working to ban such substances.