Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spice Cases Rise Across the Area

Spice or what many call synthetic marijuana has been in the news across the state lately due to the large number of hospitalizations and some deaths attributed to its use. Since April 2, 2015, there have been 687 reports of spice-related emergency room visits from Mississippi hospitals. Nearly all Mississippi counties have reported one or more incidents in this statewide outbreak.(Ms. Dept. of Health statistics MDH) There have been a number of deaths attributed to smoking spice in that time period including one suspected case with Winston County ties.

Spice has historically been sold over-the-counter as an incense and labeled as not for human consumption. It is often packaged to look much like candy. Spice is also known as K2, Mojo, Skunk, Spice Diamond, Moon Rocks and Yucatan Fire.

Winston County Sheriff Jason Pugh says the drug presents a difficult problem for law enforcement because it is ever changing. Some of the chemicals involved in its production may not be regulated as makers of the product continually change the product’s components. Since the exact compounds contained in synthetic marijuana changes so frequently, it is virtually impossible for users to know exactly what they are putting into their body. The recent rash of hospitalizations and deaths are examples of the volatility of the drug.

Symptoms displayed in emergency rooms across the state include: agitation, sweating, hyperactivity, hallucinations and psychosis, confusion, headaches, increased heart rate and possible seizures are loss of consciousness. Because the potency and components are unknown, symptoms can begin with one puff of the drug. Reactions can be different for different people.

President Obama signed the Food and Drug Administration Safety
and Innovation Act into law in 2012, which made the substance illegal. But Spice has been historically easy to obtain because the chemicals change frequently. Even though the FDA has banned many of these chemicals, new versions are constantly appearing to avoid regulation.

Locally, Sheriff Pugh indicates that until very recently, the major problem in Winston County was in the Winston Choctaw County Regional Correctional Facility where the drug is smuggled to inmates.

“We have had several inmates hospitalized due to use of the drug. It is popular with prisoners because there has been no drug tests available to detect it in their system.” Pugh noted that the compounds are always changing so tests are not necessarily effective.

Spice or synthetic marijuana is popular among teens because it is marketed as an incense or natural product which masks its true purpose. Teens are often fooled into thinking that the product is safe because they have been sold over-the-counter, and are packaged in a colorful manner. Spice resemble shredded plants or potpourri and is usually labeled not for human consumption.

MDH recommends the following actions if you think someone has used synthetic marijuana and is experiencing distress:

· If someone stops breathing, collapses, or is unresponsive, call 9-1-1 at once.

· If someone is showing signs of synthetic marijuana use, such as extreme agitation, paranoia, hyperactivity or tremors, call the Mississippi poison control center at 800-222-1222 to determine whether medical help is needed.