MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) -- They've been marketed for years as safe and legal alternatives to controlled drugs, substances like marijuana and cocaine, but synthetic substitutes sold online have claimed another Minnesota life.
Maple Grove police believe that 22-year old Alex Winterhalter died last spring after switching to synthetic marijuana, thinking it was safer. While on a high he accidentally shot himself while playing with a pistol inside his parent's home.
His death came just one month later after 19-year-old Trevor Robinson of Blaine died from an overdose of the synthetic drug, 2C-E.
Ten other teens and young adults had to be rushed to the hospital after taking the drug at the same house party in Blaine. Shortly afterwards, the victim's brother, John Robinson, said, "He was the one that told everyone else to be sober, so it's like, why him?"
In fact synthetics substitutes can actually be more dangerous than the controlled substance they aim to replace. What's even more alarming, according to authorities, is the relative ease in which people can purchase the drugs from websites.
"These drugs are just as dangerous as drugs obtained illegally on the street," says Dr. John Cole.
As medical director of the Minnesota Poison Control Center, Cole says the dangers of synthetic drugs can't be overstated. In many cases they can have more detrimental effects than even methamphetamines and cocaine.
"They cause cardiac problems, seizures, kidney failure and can even cause muscle breakdown," said Cole. "They're very dangerous compounds."
And in at least two Minnesota cases, they're now linked to causing death.
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