ORLANDO, Fla. - Synthetic drugs could be responsible for higher death counts in central Florida.
Five people died so far this year in Orange and Osceola counties, partly because of synthetic drugs, officials said.
"We are seeing a trend at the ME office," Dr. Jan Garavaglia, chief medical examiner for Orange and Osceola counties, said.
In 2012, there was only one such death documented by the chief medical examiner.
"Synthetic drugs is a new way to die here in central Florida," Garavaglia said.
Garavaglia said more and more people are taking potent hallucinogens that are proving deadly.
Garavaglia said it's inevitable some cases are being overlooked. She said her team of scientists is doing more investigative work to prove synthetic drugs are to blame.
"If we're seeing a death and we can't find a cause of death and we suspect they took something we keep going," Garavaglia said.
She thinks that could also account for the higher number of reported deaths in 2013.
"It's going to continue to go up until kids get the word, adults, that they can be dangerous ," Garavaglia said.
A trace amount of a synthetic drug called "N-bomb" was enough to kill a 17-year-old.
The hallucinogen found in some "bath salts" killed Krystopher Sansone earlier this year.
"This is a drug that's killing out there its very real," the victim's mother, Lucy Sansone, said.
A second teen died this past summer after a "bad trip" led him to drown in a lake.
The two cases came through Garavaglia's morgue but the chemicals in their bodies didn't immediately show up.
"The substance was never seen as causing a death in Florida," Garavaglia said.
It took a lot of investigating by her toxicology team, including a look at crime scene evidence like a $10 bill.
"We got police to give us the $10 bill to see if we could find the chemical," Garavaglia said.
They did, tracking it to New Zealand.
"Immediately we tell law enforcement and the DEA picked up on that we had an N-bomb death," Garavaglia said.
That led to "N-bomb" being banned by the Drug Enforcement Agency this week.