Late Thursday night, police were called out to the 5200 block of County Road 325 West.
A 19-year-old had called 911 and was waiting along the road. He told a sheriff’s deputy that he ingested an unknown drug and was sick and wanted to go to the emergency room.
“You know I’ll tell you that in 31 years on the job I’ve never seen that many people affected by eating a gummy bear,” said Captain Mike Kellems, La Porte County Sheriff’s Department.
The teen was experiencing rapid heart rate, pain in his legs, hallucinations and blurred vision. He told police he was in the area with friends who had also taken the drugs.
In a nearby home, first responders found ten other teenagers experiencing the same side effects. At the time, first responders had no idea what the teens had ingested.
“This wasn’t one bad gummy bear. They tell us that they had six and they cut each of them in half. There were 11 kids so there was a half leftover and each ingested a half of a gummy bear,” said Kellems.
After admitting all 11 people to local hospitals, lab results determined they had extremely high levels of THC in their systems.
THC is the street term for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is an active ingredient found in marijuana.
Not your average gummy bears, these were larger versions of the candy, specially manufactured with THC pre-infused.
“Their heart rates were upwards of 200 and that’s not safe,” said Kellems. “We’re confident these kids knew they weren’t eating gummy bears based on the size of the gummy bears; they cut them in half. They knew what they were getting into but I don’t think they knew the severity of it.”
Friday, officers are calling this a wake-up call for teens and parents everywhere.
“More and more so these days, we’re coming across unknown items that have been ingested. So yes there is potential there for this to be deadly,” said Andrew McGuire, administrator, La Porte County EMS.
McGuire says there is potential for a “deadly” outcome because of the unknown.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s the same thing we’ve seen with heroin. When you buy heroin, you don’t know whether it’s pure, you don’t know if it’s laced with elephant tranquilizer, you don’t know what it is. There’s no quality control, they don’t care. They want to make their money and move on,” said Kellems.
Officials say this is a forewarning to others.
“Because we’re talking about a gummy bear for heaven’s sake and that’s affected these teens adversely, and who would think, ‘oh a gummy bear is going to cause my child a problem?'” said Kellems. “But nowadays you have to be aware that, you have to be aware of everything that’s going to be around them because you could end up with a very negative impact or a death.”
Eleven 18- and 19-year-olds were treated and released by Friday morning. Police say six of the teens are male, and five are female.