A rash of overdoses linked to synthetic marijuana, known on the street as K2 or “spice,” has police working closely with the health department and County Attorney’s office to get the chemical off the streets.
Police said at least 15 people were treated as of Tuesday afternoon, and at least another dozen after releasing information to the public about the rash of overdoses.
Those were the confirmed cases, although police suspect the number of those affected could be in the dozens, and mounting.
Spice is smoked from a pipe to elicit an altered state, which varies depending on the brand and “flavor,” but often the physical reaction ranges from hallucinogenic, to catatonic. It can cause increased heart rate, uncontrollable vomiting, aggression and cardiac arrest. The “high” lasts for about 15-20 minutes.
In the past 24 hours Manchester police have tracked more than 15 overdoses, all of them linked to a particular brand, Smacked, available in a variety of “flavors” including bubblegum, blueberry and lemon-lime.
On Aug. 11 at about 11:30 a.m. Manchester Police responded to Pulaski Park, 125 Bridge St., where they found three people passed out and unresponsive near the basketball courts. All three individuals were reportedly in medical distress and lethargic, and were transported by ambulance for treatment of an apparent overdose.
Later in the day, at about 4 p.m., police went to Victory Park where another person with similar symptoms was located and transported to the hospital.
A third incident at 6:30 p.m. involved a woman found in Bronstein Park who was also described as unresponsive. Preliminary information gathered at that scene indicated the woman may have smoked spice.
Officers assigned to the Community Policing Division initiated further investigation into these incidents, obtaining information from AMR ambulance that at least 15 – possibly more more – people had been transported in the last 24 hours to area hospitals for treatment of overdose symptoms believed to be related to spice. Calls for service related to spice overdoses continued throughout Tuesday.
Spice is sold around the city, usually at smaller convenience stores for under $1o. In recent years other synthetic products identified as “bath salts,” sold under various brand names and labeled for use as window cleaner or potpourri, have also been targeted by police who worked to get the products out of stores.
What’s inside the small foil packages is normally a mixture of dried plant-based material that is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the hallucinogenic element found in the cannabis plant.
Manufactured overseas, usually in China or Hong Kong, spice – also called synthetic marijuana – has been quietly sold for the past few years from local convenience stores to those who seek a “legal” high.
It can also easily be purchased online.
There are generally a number of brands available, all of which are dangerous as all of which are labeled “not for human consumption.”
Manchester Police plan to meet with a number of local variety store owners and managers to clear this product from their shelves in an effort to preserve public safety. While the demographics of individuals found consuming the product have varied, its packaging would suggest a concerted effort to attract young people as consumers.
The problem of synthetic drug use over the past four years has gotten the attention of the White House, which has issued fact sheets about the growing abuse of these synthetic drugs, which have been found to be highly addictive and more dangerous than actual marijuana – due mainly to the fact the chemicals used in manufacturing are not known.
Chief Mara urges Manchester residents, especially parents, teachers and coaches, to be aware of the real dangers associated with this product and educate young people about the serious health risks associated with its illegal consumption.
Editor’s note: The story has been updated to clarify the difference between spice and bath salts.
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- City aims to ban the sale of spice 2014/08/15
- Gov. declares state of emergency over ‘spice’ public health threat 2014/08/14
- 3 stores shut down for selling ‘spice,’ causing public health emergency 2014/08/13
- Police link ‘Spice’ to at least 15 overdoses in 24 hours 2014/08/12
- ‘It looks like zombies have taken over the park’ 2014/08/14