Emergency Trauma Center hasn't been deluged with patients suffering from the effects of smoking "Spice", also known as K2, but director Dr. Sanford Vieder has seen enough to support public calls to get the synthetic drug out of Michigan stores.
"I think the public's kind of demanding that, and they should," he said, because the effects of the drug are so dramatic.
Spice is legally sold in Michigan, because the compound is not specifically banned under state law. The substance is packaged as "incense", with wrappers that are generally labeled with warnings that it is not for consumption.
and officials in , , and have taken or are considering action to ban or discourage sale of the drug, which is connected to murders in Farmington Hills and , and the .
While people are calling Spice "synthetic marijuana", Vieder said, "it really isn't. Marijuana has a sedating effect ... This stuff actually has the opposite effect."
The drug frequently causes psychosis, and there's a "hallucinogenic component", he added. Violent behavior is also seen with the drug and "violent reactions to even the slightest stimulus."
Vieder said signs that someone might be using Spice include isolation and irrational behavior, including violence. He said continual over-eating and the inability to reach satiety or a sense of being full is seen in Spice users. The drug may also cause seizures, which Vieder said could have been what happened to 18-year-old Oliver Smith, the Bloomfield Township teen whose body was found May 26 along the shore of Wing Lake.
The psychosis and extreme violent behavior may or may not be seen in users, Vieder added, "but the likelihood is greater with frequent usage. There seems to be a cumulative effect."
While Botsford hasn't seen a large number of cases, Farmington Hills psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Sackeyfio told the Detroit Free Press he has handled many emergency cases with young people hospitalized at Beaumont in Royal Oak.
The Sunday Free Press report also included statistics from the Children's Hospital of Michigan Regional Poison Center, which show the number of people treated after using synthetic marijuana jumped from below 20 in 2010 to more than 200 last year. And there are 185 cases in the first five months of 2012.
Vieder urges parents who suspect their children are using Spice to reach out for help. Oakland County maintains a list of licensed substance abuse programs at oakgov.com.