Our network

Treatment centers seeing more adult spice users | News

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Treatment centers seeing more adult spice users

LAS VEGAS -- Spice use among adults is becoming more prevalent while the number of teens who use it appears to be dropping, according to drug treatment centers across the Las Vegas valley.

Nearly six percent of high school seniors reported using spice last year which was about half the percentage of teen spice users in 2012.

Treatment centers are seeing a new trend among their patients.

"The change now is with the adult population," said Leo Magrdichian, deputy director, WestCare Nevada, Harris Springs Ranch.

He runs WestCare's rehabilitation facility near Mount Charleston. 

"I can say that up to 75 percent of the adults that we provide treatment to here in this program have smoked spice," Magrdichian said.

He admits that statistic is more anecdotal than scientific and based on surveys of patients. There are not any reliable statistics available on adult spice use and it's usually not the primary reason patients are usually in treatment.

Spice also does not have it's own classification when treatment centers diagnose patients, it's is lumped in with bath salts and other synthetic drugs.

Spice is often referred to as synthetic marijuana, but it's actually a dangerous mixture of chemicals sold as potpourri or incense and smoking it can have deadly consequences.

"Even the packages will say 'not for human consumption,' and we all know that's exactly the opposite of what's happening," Magrdichian said.

"It's addicting, it's very addicting," said Ray Barker, a former spice user.

He has been clean for several years, but he picked it up in his mid-30s between rehabilitation stints while struggling with addiction to other drugs.

"You could actually, you know, fly under the radar because they only checked for narcotics."

Barker says it wasn't unusual to see people older than him coming and going from smoke shops buying and smoking spice.

"It's hit the generations from the younger to the older."

What he saw happen to one of those customers served as a wake up call.

"I've seen somebody go into a seizure," Barker said. "I actually didn't go into seizure when I did it, but I've seen it, I've witnessed it, and so I know there is a real danger there."

Police are cracking down on stores selling spice.

On a raid in February, Metro Police officers seized tens of thousands of dollars worth of spice from two shops on Charleston Boulevard, along with thousands of dollars in cash.

But although the DEA and lawmakers continue to outlaw the different chemicals in spice, manufacturers continue to change the chemical compounds -- ever so slightly -- to sell them as legal potpourri.

"It's a cat-and-mouse game between our government entities, like the DEA, and the manufacturers," Magrdichian said.

"I would say it's almost like an epidemic, you know, like we got to get control of it somehow," Barker said.

The chemicals that make up spice are considered illegal in Nevada and have been for about four years, but that hasn't served as a deterrent. Many smoke shops continue to sell potpourri with different chemical make-ups, pushing into the gray area of what is and what is not allowed under the law. 

WestCare Nevada Harris Springs Ranch
WestCare Nevada Harris Springs Ranch

Downtown Deals