Joseph's life was destroyed from smoking what's known as Spice. He now lives in a tent homeless. 2

Joseph's life was destroyed from smoking what's known as Spice. He now lives in a tent homeless.

Joseph has a different story to tell, but sadly it’s a story that is becoming far too common. Joseph’s life was destroyed from smoking what’s known as Spice, K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Moon Rocks, and Skunk.

Joseph lives in a tent near Los Angeles’s Skid Row district. Joseph says Spice is his drug of choice and that he doesn’t use any other drugs. He goes on to say Spice is a drug no one can handle.

A recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report revealed that emergency department visits resulting from synthetic marijuana more than doubled in just one year.

Not for Human Consumption: Spice and Bath Salts

The herb is often marketed as herbal incense and potpourri and labeled “not for human consumption,” making it legal to sell and for minors to purchase the drug. Manufacturers sometimes include “organic” in the product name to give the appearance of a natural product that does not harm health. Similar to how cigarettes were once marketed, Spice packaging often features cartoons and images appealing to the 12 to 18 age group, and the product can easily be purchased online, or in convenience stores or head shops.

What makes Spice so dangerous?

Spice (synthetic cannabinoid) is a designer drug that is made with analogs or a chemical structure similar to commonly used illicit drugs. The composition of these products changes constantly, as manufacturers create new variations to remain under the radar. The manmade chemicals are typically sprayed on a plant or herb (not marijuana) that is most commonly smoked, and mimics the effects of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Because it is marked as “not for human consumption,” the intended use is masked and it is not subject to any quality control in manufacturing procedures or oversight that would be applied to other drugs. Because there is no oversight of the product or its production, what makes its way into the hands of teens may contain substances that can have serious health consequences. With no warning labels, young people are not aware that using these products can be harmful or even deadly.

A year had passed since I visited Los Angeles. Not just homelessness, but the condition of people living in the streets has become progressively worse in that time. I believe Spice may have played a big role in the human deterioration. While walking Skid Row I saw dealers sitting openly in public with a box of Spice in their lap rolling joints to sell for $1. Sadly, I am seeing the destruction of Spice in every community I visit.

I am glad Joseph had the courage to be honest in this interview. We need to do something about the Spice epidemic growing in in our country.


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Since its launch in November 2008, Invisible People has leveraged the power of video and the massive reach of social media to share the compelling, gritty, and unfiltered stories of homeless people from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. The vlog (video blog) gets up close and personal with veterans, mothers, children, layoff victims and others who have been forced onto the streets by a variety of circumstances. Each week, they’re on, and high traffic sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, proving to a global audience that while they may often be ignored, they are far from invisible.

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