JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Jackson County emergency rooms are seeing an alarming number of patients with complications from smoking the illegal drug spice. Typically, it's one or two people a week. But over the last two weeks, doctors tell WLOX News the number has increased to anywhere from eight to ten a day.
The problem is also rising in our neighboring state of Alabama. In the past two weeks, Mobile County deputies said they have seen a surge in drug related hospitalizations. Two deaths are being linked to the drug, leaving authorities wondering if there's a bad batch of spice on the streets.
"We have just got to make sure you are okay; You came in by ambulance," Singing River Hospital Emergency Room Doctor Stephen Boskovich, OD, explained to a patient.
The young man was mad and told Dr. Boskovich everyone was bugging him and he wanted to leave, but he could not walk.
"They are inconsolable," Dr. Boskovich said. "Pain doesn't seem to be a main complaint. It's more agitation, combativeness, hallucinations and just delirium, so they are difficult to communicate with."
The doctor said some patients come in with life threatening symptoms such as seizures, they are unconscious, or have high blood pressure and heart rates.
"Normally, we have to sedate them," Dr. Boskovich said. "Most of the time and we have to look for other causes of why they are acting like that, so they get blood drawn, sometimes CT scans. We are looking for any other reason why they are acting that way. Notoriously, in their history it comes out that there was spice exposure."
Sometimes Dr. Boskovich said patients will not experience any symptoms for two or three days after they smoke spice.
"Nobody really knows what's in it and what the side effects are. And we see this syndrome that has life threatening symptoms associated with it, seizures and different things, especially when in combination with other medications," Dr. Boskovich said.
"Despite the way it's marketed and the way it can be bought on the internet, everything else, it's just absolutely not safe."
In the hour we were at Singing River Hospital Friday, two patients were brought in by ambulance for spice and three more shortly after we left.
Across South Mississippi, the Drug Enforcement Administration said they have seen an increase in spice sales. The drug is illegal and agents have been working to get those selling the drug off the street.
Resident Agent in Charge Danny Comeaux said, "The thing that makes spice so dangerous is you never know what chemical compounds the drug makers are using."