Oct 18, 2018 | Updated: 04:34 PM EDT

Not So Sweet—‘Spice’ Use Skyrockets and Poison Control Points to Many Recent Deaths

Apr 25, 2015 05:31 PM EDT

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A potent new drug has hit the city streets nationwide and medical officials are finding that the backlash is anything but sugary sweet. The new street drug, popularly known as "Spice", are synthetic substances mimicking the effects of marijuana but with far more lethal consequences. As police officers nationwide are cracking down and finding more of the synthetic "Spice" on the streets, medical officials and health agencies are also seeing an increase in life-threatening cases involving the drug, and they think that this Spring could be the apex of the killer drug.

According to reports issued by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the first three weeks of April revealed more than 1,000 reports of adverse reactions to "Spice", a number that more than doubled the total from January through March together. And in less than a half of a year the number of serious cases in 2015 have already quadrupled the numbers seen in 2014. This week, on Thursday April 23 alone there were 172 reports, and now they have even begun taking a death total as well.

This month state health departments for New York, Mississippi and Alabama issued health alerts after drastic increases in "Spice" users led to more hospitalizations. These agencies say that the adverse reactions can include hyperanxiety, delusions, violent behavior, and at times even death.

As of now experts are unsure of the total number of fatalities nationwide associated with the drug, however, believe that the spike in deaths may correlate to increased use and/or a particularly potent formulation that hit the markets this month. A large portion of the cases, for example, in Louisiana involve a form of "Spice" called mab-chminaca, however, more detailed studies will be needed to confirm the causes of these deaths.

"We had one hospital in the Baton Rouge area that saw over 110 cases in February. That's a huge spike" Director of the Louisiana Poison Center, Dr. Mark Ryan says. "There's a large amount of use going on."

"When one of these new ingredients-something that's more potent and gives a bigger high-is released and gets into distribution, it can cause these more extreme effects."

Though law enforcement agencies have sought to contain the distribution and use of these synthetic cannabinoids known as "Spice", control of the illegal market has evaded many agencies. And as the flow of "Spice" continues to grow, health agencies fear that the underlying chemistry and contaminants within the drug will continue to cause serious reactions for many of its users.

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