Officers see spike in calls about synthetic marijuana

- After a recent uptick in medical calls, concern continues to grow surrounding the street drug K2, or Spice, a man-made synthetic marijuana. Experts say the drug is much more dangerous than marijuana.

According to Tampa Fire Rescue, first responders received more than 30 calls for suspected or admitted use of the drug this week. The total reached 12 in a single day, compared to the 12 overall received by the same time last year.

In an effort to bring awareness, doctors and law enforcement held a news conference to answer questions about the drug Friday.

Dr. Michael Strolla spoke with FOX 13 News about the dangers of using Spice and explained how synthetic drugs can impact the body.  

Dr. Strolla said Spice produces similar symptoms and hallucinations as the synthetic methamphetamine, commonly known as Bath Salts.

Dr. Strolla, as well as the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), described some possible symptoms as “manic, psychosis, intense hallucinations, higher blood pressure, aggression, suicidal or harmful thoughts and actions.”

Police and paramedics are also at risk of injury from biting, hitting and transferring of bodily fluid by those who use the drug.

“The greatest risk of all for users is death. This is due mostly because distributors and users are expecting a similar high to marijuana,” says Dr. Strolla.

Dr. Strolla said Spice was introduced as an over-the-counter drug in the 2000s and made a more dramatic appearance in November of 2008.

Tampa Fire Rescue, Tampa Police and the Tampa General Hospital Poison Control Medical Director are now trying to raise awareness. Although the ingredients are not specific, people are gaining more access to the drug.

Dr. Strolla explained that no matter how much research goes into the investigation of the “right”, or commonly used ingredients that make Spice popular, it is unlikely to be found because the producers are always creating a new concoction that will give users the same high.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classified five of the active chemicals in the most common forms of Spice controlled and illegal.

Dr. Strolla explains, however, producers make it harder for the chemicals to be detected through drug tests because they use a combination of many different chemicals, so investigators are not able to pinpoint them specifically.

Even if that means, Dr. Strolla said, they have to use kitty litter in the mix.

The producers create a drug that stimulates parts of the brain to give off a high. If kitty litter just so happens to be around at the time, then they throw it in. This is why the chemicals making up Spice can be unidentifiable.  

Doctor Strolla says, “many marijuana addicts use Spice to avert failing a drug test because Spice isn’t detected the same way as marijuana is on a drug test.”

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