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6 things to know about Spice — the street drug gripping Skid Row

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Los Angeles firefighters and paramedics help a person who fell ill in downtown Los Angeles, on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Firefighters evaluated 18 patients and took 14 of them to hospitals for doctors to determine the cause of the symptoms, said Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Spice looks like marijuana but can have a more intense impact on the body. (Photo courtesy Drug Enforcement Administration)

Twice in less than a week, at least 18 people have been treated after ingesting illicit substances on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, In at least one of the cases, the substance was identified as “spice.”

What is “Spice?”

It’s a chemical concoction billed as synthetic marijuana, also called “incense” and “K2.” It’s usually diluted with water, sprayed onto herbs and smoked like weed.

What’s it look like?

The artificial THC, which mimics the active ingredient in pot, is usually an oil or crystalline powder. After it’s watered down, it is sprayed onto dried plant material and chopped up herbs. The result looks somewhat like pot or tobacco. It is often sold in head shops in small shiny packages for about $50 for about 2 grams, according to Vijay Rathi, a special agent with the DEA.

What’s it made of?

It’s a cocktail of synthetic cannabinoids cooked up in a lab, often in Russia or China, It can contain any number of ingredients from a hodgepodge of more than 700 chemicals. The potpourri of chemicals is not listed on its flashy packaging.

Why do people take it?

It looks like marijuana, is ingested like pot but it can have a more intense impact on the body. It’s for users seeking a more intense high, police say.

What’s the risk?

Spice’s side effects are more severe and can include hallucinations, aggressive behavior and hypertension, police and health officials say.

Is it legal?

Some strains have been declared illegal, but that’s not true of all synthetic drugs. Underground chemists in China and India are making new strains quicker than the DEA and U.S. Food and Drug Administration can ban them, officials say.

SOURCE: Drug Enforcement Agency, SCNG archives

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