When a woman called 911 earlier this year and begged deputies to rescue her from the five crazed young people destroying her home, her fear was palpable: “They’re all going psycho … help us, please.”
Here’s what deputies found when they arrived:
A young man in the front yard was convulsing, grunting, reaching for objects in the air that weren’t there, and, as one deputy described, in a “zombie state of mind.”
Inside the west Orange County home, a 17-year-old had wrapped herself in a vacuum cord so tightly that she couldn’t move. She was convulsing, and her eyes were rolled back in her head.
Seventeen-year-old Krystopher Sansone was unconscious on the floor.
Another teen was standing in the living room in a semiconscious state, sweating profusely, and seemed to have “great strength” when deputies restrained him.
On the porch, a teenage girl was sitting on a swing, unable to talk to deputies.
All five were hospitalized, three in critical condition. Krystopher later died.
A few hours earlier, the teens had snorted so-called bath salts off a $10 bill.
Bath salts — synthetic drugs made of substances perceived to mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD or methamphetamine — are illegal in Florida.
But anyone can buy the drugs online, and recent arrests in Central Florida show people are still manufacturing the narcotic.
Federal authorities say bath salts — marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave” and “Vanilla Sky” — are increasingly popular among teens and young adults, as is synthetic marijuana, commonly known as “K2″ or “Spice.”
The drugs are marketed as legal highs, and manufacturers often label the items “not intended for human consumption” in an attempt to skirt drug laws.
Controlling — and banning — synthetic drugs has proved challenging for federal and state authorities. As soon as one substance is banned, manufacturers change their recipes.
Since 2009, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has seen more than 200 varieties of synthetic drugs, said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Alan Santos.
Seminole County undercover deputies who have bought the drugs said they’ve sent the items to a state lab only to find out the chemicals in those products were not specifically banned under Florida law.
So far, synthetic-drug abuse in Central Florida has not risen to the epidemic proportions prescription-drug abuse has.
In 2011, Florida’s poison centers received 655 reports related to bath salts and synthetic marijuana across the state. After the drugs were banned by state law, the number of cases dropped to 468 in 2012.
But that doesn’t mean synthetic-drug use is waning, authorities say.