Doctors say smoking spice can lead to persistent psychosis

MOBILE, AL (WALA) –Because spice is a relatively new drug and an evolving drug, doctors and scientists have had a hard time predicting it’s long term effects, but now some studies are showing that spice can lead to serious and dangerous long term effects including persistent psychosis, liver damage and lung damage.

Dr. Bradley Sadler with AltaPointe treats patients addicted to spice. He says, because the drug is made and sold illegally, some of his patients actually didn’t know they were trying spice. But spice is anything but marijuana.

The immediate effects of the drug are dangerous and sometimes lethal.

“They can present with increased anxiety, agitation, aggression, self harm behavior, it can be so bad I’ve had patients attack family members, jump out of windows,” Dr. Sadler said. “It can be very scary and often times when the effects of spice wear off, it can be weeks – it can last for weeks – they don’t remember what they’ve done in those weeks they were under the influence.”

Now he says doctors are learning in some cases, the side-effects may never wear off.

“There are some reports of people getting persistent psychosis from spice where it hasn’t ever gone away,” said Dr. Sadler, “so psychosis like hearing voices, seeing things that aren’t there, believing things that aren’t real.”

He says spice can also cause long term effects on the lungs and kidneys.  It can also lead to cardiac arrest.

A local epidemic

While cases have been tracked around the country, Mobile seems to be a hotspot for spice. Between March 15 and May 4, 932 people statewide were taken into hospitals after using spice. Exactly half of those cases were in Mobile County.

Dr. Jim McVay with the Alabama Department of Public Health says the numbers are showing that the spice distributors are probably in Mobile and in Mississippi – a state that is having an equally large problem with spice.

“Florida is not seeing a lot of it. Georgia is not seeing a lot of it, Tennessee is not,” Dr. McVay said. “But in Southwest Alabama we are and in Mississippi they are so it’s a localized problem.”

An added danger to spice, according to Dr. McVay, is that many people aren’t aware they’re buying it. He says they may be looking for what they think is synthetic marijuana from their friend or a drug dealer and end up getting spice.

He says because the spice is illegal and not regulated, the composition seems to be getting more deadly.

“We’re speculating that there are other substances mixed with it, possibly more chemicals are being put on the drug that is being smoked and the buyers don’t realize it or even the people selling it don’t realize it. There’s very little knowledge on individual cases because the substance is being sold illegally,” said Dr. McVay

If you need help or know a friend who may need help, the CarePointe number for AltaPointe is 251-450-2211. If a friend or family member is having a medical emergency for spice you should call 911 immediately.