Skid Row. Photo by Jorobeq/CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Skid Row. Photo by Jorobeq/CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fifteen people in downtown’s skid row were hospitalized this weekend after consuming a tainted form of synthetic marijuana known as Spice, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

Thankfully, Beck said in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, nobody died, even though most were rushed to the hospital after collapsing on the sidewalk and streets. The first incidents were reported Friday afternoon, he said.

Homeless advocates, shelter operators and police officers told The Times that the weekend’s episode isn’t the first time this year that ambulances have rolled up to homeless encampments and found poisoned spice users.

“They are cutting it with something lethal,” the Rev. Andy Bales, who runs the Union Rescue Mission, told The Times. “We’ve seen violence and convulsions…. I saw a guy rolling into the street on Friday.”

Spice is made by spraying psychoactive chemicals onto plant matter and then smoking or eating it.  Side effects include racing heartbeat, nausea and sometimes seizures.

The DEA has identified 400 new designer drugs, mostly with origins in rogue labs in China.

“These are extremely dangerous drugs, despite being falsely marketed to youth as being a ‘safe’ alternative and having innocent names like ‘spice’ and ‘K2,’” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker has said. “The often unknown and constantly changing chemicals in these drugs can have unpredictable and devastating effects on users.”

Even for skid row, the rash of overdoses sparked anxiety. HazMat crews checked the area to make sure there was not a larger public safety threat Friday night, and some streets were closed, The Times reported.

—City News Service

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