Chambersburg police concerned about 'bad batch' of synthetic marijuana

Written by Becky Metrick, Public Opinion Online | Apr 29, 2015 9:30 AM
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(Chambersburg) -- Chambersburg police received a call Tuesday about a man suspected of having a drug reaction -- one of a few recent incidents involving synthetic marijuana brand K2 or Spice.

Chambersburg Police Chief David Arnold said his officers received a call about an incident at Chambersburg Hospital. The suspected user had left the emergency room and was found wandering around the middle of the street, he said.

Arnold said with this most recent incident, he decided it was time to speak out about what he believes might be a "bad batch" of the drug.

"I noticed here in Chambersburg in the last three to four weeks, we've had about four cases where people have overdosed on what we believe is the K2 or Spice," Arnold said. Arnold said synthetic marijuana is made in labs, and that its formula is changed often.

"Sometimes, like we're experiencing now, it has bad side effects," Arnold said.

Arnold cited some of these side effects found on the Partnership for Drug Free kids website, including short-term effects like increased agitation, seizures, vomiting, profuse sweating, uncontrolled or spastic body movements and elevated blood pressure, heart rate and palpitations. In addition, severe paranoia, delusions and hallucinations are listed as non-physical side effects.

Arnold said police receive calls about someone who is hallucinating, or "acting totally inappropriate to their normal behavior."

Officers will get the person medical help, but once they investigate the cause of the behavior they'll look for what the person was taking and evidence of possession. Arnold said whatever they find is turned over to the Franklin County Drug Task Force to see if they have link the drugs back to the original source.

Lead County Detective out of the District Attorney's Office, James Brown, also head of the drug task force, said that officials are aware of the substance being in the area, and are looking for it. Brown said the task force has been receiving bulletins from agencies in the surrounding areas about the drug.

"There are a wide range of very bad symptoms," Brown said about this batch of Spice. "A lot of bad things are happening."

Manny Diaz, co-director of Community Coalition, an organization that works to keep young people off drugs, alcohol and tobacco, said he believes the drug's presence in the area is increasing.

Diaz noted that so far the drug appears to be mostly used by mid-to-late teens, then up to people in their 30s.

"What happens, I think many times, is people don't understand what this can do to them," Diaz said. "And if there's young people, no one really knows what the end result is going to be with a prolonged use of this when you're 16, 17, 18 years old. What's going to happen when you're 25-30? That's the thing that scares me the most."

Diaz said he knows people who have used the drug and ended up with serious short-term memory issues. Diaz said while their memories are starting to come back, it has taken a long time.

Arnold said synthetic marijuana is about as popular as heroin, and that the two could be competing of the top spot on any day.

"I think because of the craze of other states who are trying to legalize marijuana, that there's this thought amongst young people that this drug is chic. It's okay, it's hip and it really won't have any bad effects," Arnold said. "And that's marijuana itself, then this stuff is in a whole other category of danger."

While Arnold would not go into details of how this latest iteration of Spice is being packaged and marketed, he said it's being done very "slickly" and that people should be extra wary of anything that is known to be synthetic marijuana or packaged for sale.

"There's definitely enhanced dangers we feel, that people should be warned about," Arnold said. "We hope that people who know people using it will use this as an opportunity to push them get help."

Staff writer Becky Metrick can be reached at 262-4762.

This content comes to us through a partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF. 

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