A new synthetic drug known as "smiles" has federal agents on alert before it even hits the tri-state area.
The drug isn't as well known as some of its counterparts like K2 and bath salts, but authorities say they are keeping in touch with hospital ERs for reports of possible overdoses, as the drug is being linked to deaths in other states.
In one high-profile case, actor Johnny Lewis is suspected of killing his landlord and her cat before taking his own life. Police believe the new drug fueled the bloody rampage in California last month.
NBC 4 New York has learned federal agents are on high alert to keep the drug out of our area.
“It’s not a smile. It’s a face of evil,” said Brian Crowell, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration here in New York. “It’s extremely dangerous, and again it’s not going to put a smile on their face -- it’s gonna put them in the ER if they’re lucky."
While a few cases have been reported in upstate New York, Crowell says the drug has not surfaced near the city.
“We’re not seeing it yet and we want to keep it that way,” he told NBC 4 New York in an exclusive interview. “We want to get in front of this before it even materializes in New York.”
Dr. Harris Stratyner, of the Caron Treatment Center, predicted more deaths linked to the drug, and said kids as young as 12 are using synthetic drugs.
“Children need parents, not buddies. They have plenty of friends. They need parents who set rules and regulations,” Stratyner said.
Experts says the drug is colorfully packaged and marketed specifically for teenagers.
“It’s sickening to me that there’s adults that would manufacture and sell this stuff when they know at the end of the day a kid is gonna ingest it,” Crowell said.
While smiles isn’t illegal in New York yet, Crowell has a warning for any gas station, bodega, head shop, or store thinking of stocking their shelves with this synthetic drug.
“It’s completely unethical to sell. Why would you sell something that’s going to harm kids? It’s on our radar screen now and we’ll see how it materializes but we will aggressively pursue anybody who sells anything to harm our kids,” Crowell said.
Experts believe smiles is made overseas and often bought over the internet. So parents are encouraged to monitor what their kids are looking into online.