Within three days, 32 people from Los Angeles' Skid Row were hospitalized after smoking a tainted batch of fake marijuana commonly referred to as Spice.
On Aug. 19, paramedics responded to a call at around 10 a.m. that a number of people were violently ill, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
"We started receiving calls about people who had ingested something," said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Officer David Ortiz.
In total, 18 people were found expressing similar symptoms. Doctors confirmed that they ingested Spice, a synthetic form of marijuana in which various herbs are sprayed with liquid chemicals to simulate the effects of THC, the main ingredient in marijuana.
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Side effects of ingesting the drug, which is also sold under the name Black Magic or Scooby Snax, can include rapid heartbeat, nausea, and even seizures, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Only three days later, on Aug. 22, paramedics received a similar call to the same area. This time, 14 people were taken to the hospital, all of whom were under the influence of Spice.
Skid Row, one of Los Angeles' most impoverished areas, has a troubled relationship with drugs. Brian Humphrey, another LAFD spokesman, told the Los Angeles Daily News that the department receives dozens of drug-related calls every day from Skid Row.
"As long as we have people on the street in that brutal reality, they’re going to be looking for an escape," said Rev. Andy Bales, who heads a rescue mission in the area.
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It's difficult to tell with the naked eye if a drug has been tainted, which makes buying drugs on the streets even more dangerous.
"Any dose of a street substance is too much," said Humphrey. "There’s always someone out there looking to change the product."