OGDEN -- Local emergency rooms are seeing some patients, but not a lot, who are experiencing some of the after-effects of using Spice, a synthetic form of marijuana.
The substance can cause a lengthy bout of psychosis in some users, according to research presented recently at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting.
According to the research, 10 patients at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, were hospitalized after using Spice, complaining of auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions and thoughts of suicide.
Officials at local hospitals said they have seen some patients coming in with similar symptoms.
Craig Bielik, spokesman for Ogden Regional Medical Center, said one ER doctor said he had seen two cases in the past several months.
"We are prepared for it, though, if it should be (a problem,)" he said.
Chris Dallin, spokesman for McKay-Dee Hospital, said their emergency room has seen some cases of Spice users needing medical treatment. Most of those patients were young adolescents.
"(They haven't seen) a lot recently," Dallin said. "Mostly marijuana and heroin."
Officials at Bear River Health Department, which also houses a substance abuse division, said they have not heard of much Spice use after cities, and eventually the state, began banning the product, which was being sold as incense in many smoke shops in the area.
Spice is a synthetic marijuana that contains mostly damiana, a shrub with small, yellow flowers that grows in dry, rocky climates generally found in Mexico, California and Texas, according to literature found in a local smoke shop. However, the incense is often also sprayed with a synthetic compound, which is chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The packaging is labeled as not meant for human consumption.
Ogden Police Lt. Scott Conley said that after a citywide ban on the sale of Spice in smoke shops, police have not seen the shops selling the incense, but people are still getting it through other avenues.
And when those people have adverse side effects from the product, many have called emergency dispatchers for help.
"We've had complaints -- people being unable to breathe, elevated blood pressure," Conley said. "The problem is it affects people so differently."
Most of the patients involved in the research presented to the American Psychiatric Association recovered from the psychosis in five to eight days, but in some people the symptoms lasted as long as three months.
Conley said although many people think the drug won't hurt them, it can have extremely negative effects.
"Everybody thinks it's not harmful," he said. "But it says it's not for human consumption. It's harmful to your body."
Information from the Los Angeles Times is included in this article.