A recent string of overdoses has authorities scrambling to contain this growing threat.
Spice, the common street name for a dangerous type of synthetic cannabis, has been wreaking havoc across the country. According to a report from ABC News, authorities in Pinellas County, FL have reported a dramatic uptick in overdoses linked to a bad batch of the drug.
Police report that you can buy a single cigarette’s worth of spice for just a dollar, and dealers have been unloading the drug to homeless people in local parks. According to Christopher Kennedy of St. Petersburg, “It’s like a major epidemic and nobody cares. It’s rat poison and everything else in there. Now they’re lacing it with crack and other things we’ve heard. It’s not something to try.”
The problem with spice and other brands of synthetic marijuana is that there are no laws governing its production and use. Researchers believe the bulk of synthetic cannabis is produced in laboratories overseas, and shipped to convenience stores and head shops around the U.S. Each time new legislation attempts to make the drug illegal, producers switch up the recipe and bypass the law.
At least 20 people in the St. Petersburg area have fallen seriously ill after ingesting spice. A dozen of the cases were reported on Saturday, and half of the people affected were sent to the hospital. Symptoms of a spice overdose are unpredictable, but can include vomiting, seizures and blackouts.
According to Yolanda Fernadez of the St. Petersburg Police, “It’s synthetic. It’s man made and it’s just chemicals. You don’t know what you’re putting in your body and you don’t know how you’re going to react.”
As spice and other forms of synthetic marijuana continue to take a toll on users, authorities and medical researchers have little idea of how to address the problem.
Information on synthetic cannabis from the National Institute of Drug Abuse can be found here.