The D.C. Health Department has launched an interactive zombie-themed campaign and website to warn about the dangers of various forms of synthetic marijuana.
According to a statement from the department, the average age of synthetic marijuana users is 13.
“Recent focus group findings in partnership with DOH and local youth-based organizations indicate that synthetic marijuana is seen as an alternative to marijuana, as a result of its cheap cost and ability to go undetected in routine drug testing,” the statement reads.
It looks like marijuana and it's marketed with names like Spice, K2, Scooby Doo and Dopey Dwarf.
A 2011 survey released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that one in nine high school seniors had used Spice or K2. Synthetic marijuana is the second most commonly used illicit drug, after marijuana, among high school seniors, according to the DOH statement.
Nura Green works with the Health Department-funded D.C. Prevention Center.
"These are chemicals that are sprayed on some kind of plant product, you never know what the level of chemical you're going to get," Green says.
The synthetic drug claims to be potpourri or room incense, not for human consumption. But it's sold and smoked around the area.
Side effects can include dizziness, chills, rapid heart rate, fainting, coma, vomiting and even stroke, blood clots, loss of body movement and motor skills, brain damage and blindness, the DOH says.
One man told ABC7 he's joined the campaign against it.
"I felt my heart was gone bust," he says.
He says a lot of people under court supervision use it.
"It gets you high a little bit and it don't show up in your urinalysis when you take your urine, so what's why they're doing it."
The health department says the marketers are targeting young people, so it is too.
"It's a public health crisis," Green says "What we're trying to do is stop it before it becomes an epidemic."
The campaign will be in ads on Metro, the Internet, newspapers, radio and billboards. An interactive website, www.K2ZombieDC.com; and social media elements will allow residents to interact with the campaign.