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Frederick City Police say the drug spice is causing just as many overdoses as opioids

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 18:04:33-04

It's a mixture of leafy material sprayed with liquid chemicals; a dangerous synthetic drug that's hitting Frederick City hard.

"We have seen a significant increase this year,” said Frederick City Police Lieutenant Clark Pennington.

He says people are using spice and overdosing at nearly the same rate as opioids.

"Since February 13th we've seen about 44 overdoses,” Pennington said. “In addition to those 44 overdoses though, we've had an additional 21 ems related calls to spice induced issues."

An alarming spike that so far is not slowing down.

The Drug Enforcement Administration warns spice is a risky substance.

"People go into seizures, people have cardiac arrests, psychotic episodes and even die because of it,” DEA Special Agent Todd Edwards said. “You don't know what you're taking."

City investigators think batches of spice might be coming up from Baltimore, and they're trying to find out the source.

"Basically trying to go at this thing by a team approach to identify users, identify dealer and hopefully stop the flow," said Pennington.

Problem is, the cheap and unpredictable substance is tough to regulate, and almost impossible to prosecute.  Man-made drugs like spice create a challenge for law enforcement because the manufacturers are constantly putting out new varieties that are technically legal.

Some of the chemicals commonly used for spice are listed by the Feds as controlled substances, but the formula of the synthetic drug is easily tweaked, and won't be flagged during testing.

"They will turn around and change just a couple molecules, just enough to change the makeup of it and so it's not illegal anymore," Edwards said.

So smoking it, carrying it or selling it isn't against the law.

It's frustrating and difficult for law enforcement.

"Every time we start to adapt our way of investigating it and our way of prosecuting it, the game changes," Pennington said. "So we're constantly playing catch up."