Florida — Police officials in St. Petersburg have announced that 21 people have been hospitalized in the city since Thursday last week, due to possible consumption of Spice or K2, a synthetic form of marijuana. Patients have apparently suffered from vomiting, lack of conscience and seizures.
The incidents have occurred in the same area and most patients present the same symptoms. According to St. Petersburg Police Department, Spice consumption and overdoses related to it, have increased in the last year. Just on Thursday night, local authorities received nine emergency calls from citizens who apparently consumed it, as reported by Regal Tribune.
The day after, police received 12 calls from individuals who presented the same or similar symptoms. According to police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez, there have been no deaths, and investigators are conducting lab tests to determine if the substance that has affected at least 21 people is actually synthetic marijuana.
“The spice is unconfirmed because it must be verified in a lab, however, it is suspected. Because we have so many people in one location who admitted to using spice, we feel confident that is what this is.” She said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Ms. Fernandez added that similar situations have occurred recently in other parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Investigators seem to suggest that these incidents might be related to a “bad batch” of Spice that has entered into Tampa Bay.
It appears that the affected people were presenting “strange behaviors”. On Sunday, local police published a photograph that shows two people lying on a bench and one person laying on the ground, after apparently consuming the drug in Clearwater. St. Petersburg is a small city in Pinellas County, Florida. By 2014, its population was 253,693.
What is exactly Spice? Researchers are not sure because manufacturers are constantly changing its components to avoid the law
Spice, also known as “K2” or “fake weed”, is a mix of herbs and manmade chemicals that cause mind-altering effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Spice effects are unpredictable and in some cases it can cause death.
According to studies carried out by the University of Michigan, Spice is the second-most popular illegal drug used by high school seniors in the country, says the NIDA. However, researchers have not been able to identify all chemicals contained in it, because it is a relatively new drug.
In 2012, the Obama administration banned the combination of some substances that were being used by Spice manufacturers. However, the latter is constantly using different types of chemicals and combinations. to elude the law on a technicality, says Ms. Fernandez.
As a consequence, dangerous types of synthetic marijuana are spreading across the country, because every time the state bans one version of the drug, manufacturers create a new one, Ms. Fernandez explained.
“’The spike that we’re seeing and my personnel are dealing with on the road are unprecedented.” Said Major Eric Gandy of the Clearwater Police Department, according to The Sun.
New York, Texas and Florida are the three states that have registered most calls to poison centers between January and February 2016, due to synthetic marijuana consumption, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.