In the past month, a dramatic nationwide increase of hospital visits and deaths has been linked to synthetic marijuana, commonly known as Spice or K2.
According to the International Business Times, there have been 1,000 reports of spice-related hospitalizations in April alone, “more than double the total number of cases seen in the first three months of 2015 and nearly four times the total recorded by this time last year.”
Hospitals in New York, Mississippi and Alabama have reported hundreds of cases with at least one death in Alabama and another in Louisiana. Users of the drug who have fallen ill report high blood pressure, clenched muscles, seizures, hallucinations and psychosis.
“We have to chemically restrain and physically retrain them because they become violent and very strong,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician in New York City told MPRNews. “It takes four to five personnel to restrain them on a gurney.”
Glatter said that although variations of Spice and K2 have been around for years, there is likely a chemical change in this batch that is causing the new surge in ER visits. Also known as Green Giant, the drug is a mixture of dried herbs, spices and plant material coated in synthetic chemicals derived from cannabis and marketed as a “safe” alternative to pot because it can be difficult to detect in drug tests.
However, the drug and its ever-changing chemical structure of these synthetic drugs is not safe.
“It’s like a cocktail of an unknown potency, and consumers can’t know what they’re getting or how it will affect them,” MPRNews reported.
“The public must understand the overwhelming danger associated with Spice and other poisonous substances like it,” Dr. Bernard Eichold, a health officer in Alabama, told Tech Times. “It’s causing people to become seriously ill, including creating potential kidney damage in some.”
This spike in synthetic drug use and illness has many calling to legalize real marijuana nationwide.
“Legalize the real stuff, for godsake,” said Tech Times reader Michael Goolsby, a sentiment echoed by many. “We, as a society, are absolute morons for criminalizing the personal consumption of one of nature’s most useful plants. And no, Spice is NOT like marijuana. Not one bit. It should not be called ‘synthetic marijuana,’ and does not have ANY of the legitimate plant it.”