Hospital staff removed Emily Bauer's breathing tube and stopped all medication and nourishment at 1:15 p.m. December 16. Only morphine flowed into her body, as the family waited by her side in her final moments.
But the next morning, she was still alive.
"Good morning, I love you," her mother told Emily as she approached the bed.
A hoarse voice whispered back, "I love you too."
Emily was back.
Her family said the drug that landed the Cypress, Texas, teenager, then 16, in the ICU two weeks earlier wasn't bought from a dealer or offered to her at a party. It was a form of synthetic weed
packaged as "potpourri" that she and friends bought at a gas station.
Best known by the street names "Spice" or "K2," fake weed is an herbal mixture sprayed with chemicals that's meant to create a high similar to smoking marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Advertised as a "legal" alternative to weed, it's often sold as incense or potpourri and in most states, it's anything but legal.
Synthetic marijuana was linked to 11,406 drug-related emergency department visits in 2010, according to a first-of-its-kind report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This is when it first started showing up on health providers' radar, as the Drug Abuse Warning Nework detected a measurable number of emergency visits.
Who wound up in the emergency room the most? Children ages 12 to 17.
The first state laws banning synthetic drugs popped up in 2010. Now at least 41 states -- including Texas, where Emily lives -- and Puerto Rico have banned them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Older legislation targeted specific versions of the drug, but the makers of Spice were a step ahead.
"These drug manufacturers slightly change the chemical compound, and it becomes a different substance that's not covered by the law," said NCSL policy specialist Alison Lawrence. "That's why in 2011 and 2012, we saw the states enacting these broader language bans."
Common side effects to smoking synthetic marijuana include bloodshot eyes, disturbed perceptions and a change in mood, said Dr. Melinda Campopiano, a medical officer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
"People can become very agitated or can be come unresponsive -- conscious but not reacting normal to situations," she said. They may also appear paranoid or describe hallucinations. Some of the more potentially serious effects include an elevated heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
Campopiano said she had never heard of a patient having a stroke in these circumstances, but she described how high blood pressure could lead to one.
Knowing how different people will react to fake weed is impossible. There are a few reasons that explain why.
"You're hearing some pretty bad things with the synthetic cannabinoids -- part of that has to do with the potency. It can be 100 times more potent than marijuana," said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno.
Carreno explained there's no consistency or quality control from one time to the next. The people making these products can be anyone from a college kid wanting to make extra cash to an operation blending large quantities in a cement mixer, she said. Two batches made by the same person could have different doses.
One in every nine high school seniors admits to having used fake weed in 2011, according to a national survey by the University of Michigan. Synthetic marijuana is the second-most popular illicit drug they use, behind marijuana.
In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed legislation banning five common chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana and bath salts. And that same month, the DEA seized almost 5 million packets of fake weed in its first national sweep of the drug.
States handle the penalties for drug offenses in lots of different ways and possession has varying definitions, according to NCSL's Lawrence.