Study shows high number of "spice" users visited the ER

- SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A new government report shows "spice" or synthetic marijuana is becoming a growing problem in emergency rooms nationwide.

"People have died from it, had heart attacks from it," said Sean Ponce, M.D., Addiction Specialist at St. Mark's Hospital.

Dr. Ponce told ABC 4 a recent nationwide study from the DAWN Report (Drug Abuse Warning Network) shows in 2010, 11,406 people high on "spice" had to visit the emergency room.

"Most of the use, most of the ER visits were 12 to 17 year old young men, so kids. These are high school kids using it," said Ponce.

Why is "spice" so dangerous? Dr. Ponce explained "spice" users don't know what the chemicals used to make the drug will do to them.

"All of the sudden we see an acute worsening of their symptoms, whether it be their anxiety their paranoia, their bipolar disorder, we just see worsening," said Ponce.

Since "spice" hit Utah streets cops have been cracking down on it, but police tell ABC 4 places like smoke shops keep selling it.

"We're in interviews with these people and they (claim) we have a lab report that indicates it doesn't contain any of (these chemicals)," said Sgt. Scott Van Wagner, Unified Police Dept, February 2011.

So if you're worried your kids are doing "spice", Ponce said you shouldn't be afraid to ask them about it.

"Parents just need to be involved, they need talk to their kids, talk to them about drug use, drugs and alcohol use, ask their kids if they're using," said Ponce.

Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @tv_briancarlson

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