West Virginia residents using wasp spray as meth alternative: Police

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(ABC) -

Residents in West Virginia are using wasp spray as an alternative form of methamphetamine, according to officials.

West Virginia State Police called the use of wasp spray a “cheap fix” for the drug.

“People are making a synthetic type methamphetamine out of wasp spray,” Sgt. Charles Sutphin told ABC Charleston affiliate WCHS Monday.

Police believe wasp spray was behind three overdoses last week. It was not immediately clear how the people consumed the spray.

(MORE: Number of US overdose deaths appears to be falling)

Sutphin said the physical effects include erratic behavior, extreme swelling and redness of the hands and feet.

Pyrethroid, a chemical found in wasp sprays, can cause allergic reactions in some people and repeated exposure could increase the intensity of the reaction, according to a recent study done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on pesticides.

Sutphin echoed the notion that the more often one encounters wasp spray, the more dangerous it becomes.

PHOTO: In this file photo, a hand is shown spraying insect spray.Krisana Antharith/Eyeem/Getty Images, FILE In this file photo, a hand is shown spraying insect spray.

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“From what we're being told, if you use it, you know, you might use it one or twice and be fine, but the third time when your body hits that allergic reaction, it can kill you,” he told WCHS.

Dr. Rutherfoord Rose, the director of the Virginia Poison Control, told ABC News Wednesday that fatal allergic reactions from pyrethroid are rather uncommon but a person could be seriously poisoned.

He noted that the the trend of abusing household items to get high is not new, specifically mentioning the idea of sniffing white-out, paint and whipped cream.

“There’s a long history of people attempting to use products in an attempt to recreate some kind of high,” Rose said.

(MORE: FDA tests highlight rising concerns about potentially harmful chemicals in food)

The reasons for using wasp spray as an alternative form of meth, he said, could be a result of what he described as a more restrictive opioid market.

“It's not surprising that as the opioid market becomes more restricted, people are turning to other things," he said.

“It’s a sign or a symptom of a larger problem we have … we work on the supply, but there’s also the demand and that’s a lot harder. If you restrict the supply of some things, they’ll turn to something else," he said.