LAS VEGAS -- There is a cat-and-mouse game between police and drug makers over the drug known as spice or synthetic marijuana. The problem isn't going away.
A coordinator at Harris Springs Ranch, which is a rehabilitation center for boys and men, says he is seeing more and more young people come in for treatment after they started using spice.
Some of them are as young as 12 years old. It is a difficult problem to address, especially since it is legally sold in some stores as potpourri.
“Drugs and alcohol ruined my life,” a 28-year-old man told 8 News NOW.
He asked to not use his name. He is getting treatment at Solutions Recovery, and says spice is one of the drugs he used.
“You become a different person when you're on it,” he said.
Search bad spice trip on YouTube, and you'll find disturbing videos.
“This is bad stuff and it's very dangerous,” Metro Police detective Joe Pannullo said.
Pannullo says Metro Police are trying to keep up with the problem.
“When I go around and I teach at the different substations, patrol officers, and I ask them what are they seeing with the spice and they're seeing it daily,” Pannullo said.
He says they started noticing it about five or six years ago. It is sold in stores like smoke shops as spice or K2. It is often marketed as a legal alternative to marijuana.
As time passed and the dangers became more evident, lawmakers banned 17 different compounds used to make spice, only to have drug makers adjust the ingredients and sell a legal product to stores which is marked as incense not for human consumption.
“They're totally allowed to sell it because they're selling it as a potpourri,” Pannullo said.
Police can arrest people for smoking it.
A drug test would follow, and if 17 of those banned compounds are detected, charges could follow.
The process is timely and takes up resources.
“It's a continuous battle to try and combat this problem,” Pannullo said.
One recovering addict says part of the appeal is that the drug can be bought legally, and a basic drug test won't detect it.
“The undetectable thing makes it a big deal and it's just the cool thing to do,” he said.
He tells us now he knows the risks just aren't worth it.
“I'm very grateful to be alive, but spice could easily send you down that same path,” he said.
8 News NOW called many local smoke shops and asked if they sold synthetic marijuana or spice. The answer was ‘no,’ that is because it is sold as incense.
In one store, it was in a display case but in another, it was behind the register. Customers have to ask for it. A little bottle can cost $30.
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