BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Over the past several months, we've seen and reported hundreds of spice related stories. Now, the Biloxi Community Coalition is partnering with the Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force to combat the dangerous drug that has bizarre and sometimes even deadly effects.
This new coalition is picking up after Long Beach started the Long Beach Substance Abuse Task Force back in 2002. After experiencing funding issues, they're now partnering with the Biloxi Community Coalition in hopes of getting more officials and communities across the Coast involved with stopping the high number of spice users. They say the first test is educating.
It's often referred to as synthetic marijuana, costumed in brightly colored packaging, which is more appealing to younger people. Many law enforcement officials say the laws against spice may mirror those of marijuana, but the side effects later reveal the difference.
"The fact is that spice is nothing like marijuana, so we're trying to get away from using that type of terminology when we're talking to the kids, because we want them to realize that it's extremely dangerous," Cmdr. Jeremy Skinner, with Hancock County Narcotics Division, said.
Dozens of leaders in the education, health and law enforcement fields asked a number of questions and voiced their concerns with the growing number of people, teens in particular, using the dangerous drug.
Cmdr. Ryan Hearn, with the Harrison County Narcotics and Coastal Narcotics Enforcement Team, says it all boils down to availability.
"If it's that easy to make, imagine how many people can do it, sell it and make the money they can. I think some of the chemicals cost $5, and that'll make 10,000 grams of spice, and they're selling and ounce for what, $100," Hearn said.
Skinner says what they've been seeing in recent cases is spice being laced with insecticides, causing not only law enforcement officials to deal with those thinking it's okay to take a hit or two.
"It changes our man power ratio in our ER. Instead of one nurse looking after three to five patients, you've got five nurses looking after one patient," Merit Health Operations Director Darrin Ivey said.
Those on the panel say spice may just be a quick fad that'll die after hitting such a big peak, but they're hoping through media coverage and education, it'll speed up the process of seeing a lower amount of users.
"If everybody keeps doing their job and educating and keeping the media coverage to it, maybe people will know the effects, and maybe it'll slow it down," said Hearn.
By next year, the coalition is hoping to get a grant that will help it fund programs and events that will allow it to further combat the spice issues in surrounding communities.