SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - A disturbing trend continues to be on the rise in Mississippi. Despite the warnings, more people are smoking spice. Since the beginning of April, according to The Mississippi Department of Health, 1,011 people have been rushed to the hospital after smoking spice, and around 10 deaths are being investigated as possibly spice related.
The alleged gunman who shot and killed two Hattiesburg police officers was allegedly on spice when the shooting happened, according to his mother, Mary Smith. Smith is blaming drugs, and particularly spice, saying he was out of his mind when it happened.
"He got on them drugs. He got on that spice," Smith said.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Mississippi, Danny Comeaux, said the drug is causing a wide range of reactions from users.
"A lot of individuals have pretty much an out of body experience when they are utilizing spice," Comeaux said. "Every person will react differently. Some, it will calm them down. Others become extremely violent, get this extra ordinary strength, which often times law enforcement, it's hard for us to handle."
The biggest danger is no one knows what is in spice or how much the makers are using.
"It's absolutely not safe," Comeaux said. "It's a whole bunch of unknown chemicals being put on a plant substance, and individuals are smoking it and have no clue what is going into their body."
The DEA has been working with state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to go after those making the drug.
"We are sitting down, formulating plans and we are going after spice traffickers," Comeaux said. "A lot of individuals feel like, 'Oh, it's just spice. I won't get in trouble.' That's absolutely not true. We will come after you. We will arrest you for selling spice."
In South Mississippi, one spice dealer was recently sentenced to 120 years in federal prison.
"Hopefully, this serves as an educational piece that you won't try it, and for those who are trafficking it, again, know we will put you in jail," Comeaux said. "We are coming after you."
Harrison County ranks second in the state for the most spice related emergency room visits with 144 since April 2. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, Hancock County ranks seventh and Jackson County eighth.