'Marijuana substitute' sending users to the Emergency Room - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

'Marijuana substitute' sending users to the Emergency Room

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's good for you. The marijuana substitute or designer drug "Spice" is landing countless individuals in the hospital.

Spice is a legal substance that you can purchase at smoke shops and some gas stations. Retailers sell it under the umbrella of incense and claim it is not for human consumption. However, individuals smoke it to experience the same high that marijuana gives without the possibility of it showing up in traditional drug tests.

Dr. Joe Sasin is the medical director of the University Medical Center E. R. He says their facilities have seen a huge influx of patients coming into the emergency room complaining of psychological issues, such as agitation, anxiety and paranoia.

"People can have some kind of latent unmasked psychosis, especially if there's a genetic tendency or a family history of mental illness," Sasin said.

He adds the drug can bring to the surface latent mental illnesses that may not have appeared yet, diseases like schizophrenia. Sasin says synthetic ingredients that are in "Spice" make it more dangerous than smoking marijuana.

Although the drug is currently legal, politicians are in the process of presenting legislation to ban the sales of spice and any substance like it. Representative Charles Perry says the issue came up last session and he's hoping to push through a ban next year.

"When we get back to session I think it does dictate that we get some laws in the books to prohibit it," Perry said.

Perry believes spice is an issue of public safety. He agrees that it's more dangerous than marijuana and needs to be stopped before more people get hurt. Perry says that since the FDA is taking too long to pass a ban at a federal level, they will spearhead it at the state level. And although it's legal for now, he's looking forward to stopping the spice.

"You feel like it's acceptable because it's not illegal, but it preys on the unsuspecting and unknowing," Perry said.

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