A day after more than a dozen people smoked synthetic marijuana known as Spice and fell ill in downtown L.A.’s Skid Row area, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued an alert Tuesday to caution medical professionals about what could be an ongoing outbreak.
“This drug is extremely harmful and not much is known about what goes into making Spice,” the alert said. “While no deaths have been reported from this recent outbreak of ‘Spice’ toxicity, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is concerned about further health impacts of this drug in communities across the county.”
The drug causes people to suffer from loss of consciousness, psychosis, sweating, rapid heart rate and hyperthermia. County health officials are asking physicians to talk to patients at-risk for substance abuse about the dangers of Spice, and to report any cases.
Meanwhile on Skid Row, police were out on foot patrol, warning the homeless about Spice, said Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Mike Lopez.
“The bottom line is we don’t want anyone using these drugs,” Lopez said. “Luckily, no one has died from this.”
Needle exchange programs in the area also passed out small, blue fliers with a warning about Spice, the street drug made with different herbs or plant shrubs and sprayed with chemicals.
“Synthetic marijuana can kill,” according to the flier. “All batches aren’t the same! The high isn’t worth it.”
The effort to warn users came after dozens of people on Skid Row area fell ill Monday after smoking a tainted batch of the fake marijuana. The incident prompted a massive emergency response, leading police to scour through homeless encampments.
Eighteen people were evaluated at the scene, and 14 of them were transported to hospitals, fire officials said. Monday’s outbreak at 5th and San Pedro Streets was not far from where a similar event occurred on Friday. That’s when the Los Angeles Fire Department initially reported that 18 people fell ill. The numbers later climbed to at least 50 people, and 38 of them were hospitalized after they smoked a batch of tainted Spice, medical officials later said.
Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director for the Los Angeles Fire Department, told reporters Monday that emergency personnel are seeing people smoke Spice then have seizures or fall over. He also said LAFD ambulances and firefighters are being diverted to Skid Row because of the drug. On Monday, 12 paramedic ambulances and 75 firefighters were in the area.