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Unsuspecting Students Given LSD-Laced Gum : Drugs: Seven teens from Marina High School in O.C. are recovering from hallucinations, other effects.

December 02, 1994|ALICIA DI RADO and DEBRA CANO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

HUNTINGTON BEACH — At least seven Marina High School students, including five drill team members, were recovering Thursday after they unknowingly chewed LSD-laced Bazooka bubble gum that had been given to them by other students, parents and authorities said.

Several law enforcement officials said this was the first time they have heard of chewing gum used as a way to transmit drugs. But some students on campus said that lacing bubble gum with LSD, or "acid," is a new fad.

According to police, the episode began Tuesday around 10 p.m. as seven Marina High School girls who had just finished drill team practice were sitting with their coach in the gym.

Four boys who had been watching the team practice approached the group, and one of the boys offered the girls some wrapped Bazooka bubble gum, according to team members and their parents. Five of the girls, all seniors, accepted. The girls began to hallucinate soon after they went home.

One team member, Angela Salinardi, 17, said she saw visions of robotic toys called Transformers and "monsters from the haunted mansion at Disneyland" hours after chewing a slab of gum.

"I thought it was part of my head injury," said Salinardi, who had been in a coma for three days after a drunk driver struck her in April. "I was paranoid because I thought I would have to go to a mental institution, then I started crying, then I started laughing uncontrollably again."

Salinardi said she talked to other drill team members Wednesday and found out they had similar experiences. One drill team member told Salinardi that she imagined herself singing a duet with slain Beatle John Lennon. The girls talked to police Wednesday night and gave them pieces of chewed gum they had recovered for testing, she said.

Police Lt. Charles Poe said investigators first became aware of the LSD-spiked gum Tuesday night after the mother of a male Marina High student called authorities to say her son and his friend were "acting weird." The two boys were taken to a hospital, where they were treated and released.

No arrests had been made as of Thursday evening, and none was expected in the next few days, Lt. Jeff Cope said.

Poe said that lab tests completed Thursday indicated that the LSD had been inserted into slits that had been cut into the bubble gum. LSD was found in various pieces of unchewed gum that had been turned over to the police, he said.

Marina High Principal Carol Osbrink, in her first day on the job, said Huntington Beach Union High School District staff members warned principals at the district's six other high schools to watch out for LSD-laced gum. Police also have asked anyone who has had similar experiences with gum or candy to contact their investigators.

Officials with New York-based Topps Co. Inc., which makes the popular, comics-wrapped bubble gum, said they have contacted Huntington Beach police for more information.

Topps spokesman Marty Appel said the company is not aware of anything like this happening to its product before. "We haven't received any other reports of this nature, nor have there been any in the nearly half century of manufacture of this product," he said.

Federal Food and Drug Administration officials in Los Angeles said they also have not heard of bubble gum being laced with drugs. Orange County sheriff's officials agreed, but were not surprised at the possibility.

"It's logical that if you can get LSD in liquid form, you can put it on anything," said Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Jarvis, of the Special Investigations Division's narcotics detail.

Jarvis said he saw an upsurge in LSD use in the county about three months ago, but hasn't seen as much since. Recent Sheriff's Department undercover operations at local high schools turned up fairly light drug use, he said.

Some students at Marina High said marijuana is the most common drug on campus, but tabs of LSD--pieces of paper laced with the drug--are available for about $5 a tab.

"Acid is everywhere," one senior said.

Other law enforcement and health officials say use of hallucinogens in Orange County high schools appears to be on the rise.

"We're getting questions about it more often," said Chip Pope, a county health care agency program supervisor. "People are starting to hear that LSD use is becoming more common."

The most recent California Department of Justice survey of high school students, completed in February, showed that more teen-agers are using LSD. About 8% of ninth-graders reported they had used LSD in the last six months, compared to 4% of ninth-graders in the same survey two years earlier.

LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is chemically manufactured and odorless, authorities said. People who ingest it may see bright moving colors and shapes before their eyes, or experience feelings of overwhelming fear, sadness or joy.

Senior Amy Vermeeren, 17, co-captain of the drill team, said she chewed two pieces of the LSD-spiked gum.

She said she became giggly, her body felt tingly and lights looked three-dimensional.

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