Synthetic Drug "Spice" Sends Teens to the Hospital

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - A synthetic drug known as "spice" sent more than 15 teens to the hospital recently. Law enforcement officials are now responding with a warning. 

"This was a very bad weekend and it was certainly a very large problem over the weekend, and we saw numerous cases," said Dr. Neil Roy, vice chairman, emergency department, Meritus Medical Center. 

The patients all experienced overdose symptoms from the drug such as agitation, difficulty breathing, nausea and in two cases, the patients had to be placed on a ventilator. 

"We received numerous reports of individuals that were coming into Meritus Medical Center suffering from overdose symptoms from synthetic marijuana or...spice," said Carly Hose, public information officer, Washington County Sheriff's Office. 

Officials explained that spice is composed of herbs that are sprayed with a chemical compound that mimics the effects of THC - the active ingredient in marijuana. 

“The problem with that is that the substance they're spraying on the leaf can mimic any number of substances like cocaine, methamphetamine - and what's happening is, the responses are terribly unpredictable. People are getting very, very sick," Roy said.

Law enforcement officials said kids are getting spice by either ordering online from places outside the U.S., or hand to hand transactions, similar to how other illegal drugs are purchased. 

“As to why this is - you have with marijuana them thinking, 'well this is a safer route to marijuana because it's man-made, its chemical based,'" Hose added. "You also hear that when it comes down to drug testing, this particular synthetic drug doesn't show up on drug testing where marijuana does."

Law enforcement officials said that spice is very dangerous due to its ingredients that vary from manufacturers and batch-to-batch. They said it's almost impossible to predict the reaction someone's body may have to the drug. 

Investigators are working to locate where this particular brand of spice is coming from in order to prevent the supply from growing and becoming sustainable in the county.