Spice contributed to death of Anchorage homeless person, state says

The synthetic drug Spice contributed to the death of an Anchorage homeless person, state health officials said Tuesday.

Autopsy results revealed positive test results for the drug, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said in an emailed statement. The cause of death was found to be the "combined effects" of Spice and alcohol, public information officer Jason Grenn wrote.

The results came from one of six autopsies being conducted on homeless individuals found deceased in Anchorage in recent weeks, Grenn confirmed. DHSS did not release the name of the person whose autopsy results were cited.

Anchorage has been hit by a recent rash of medical emergencies due to the synthetic drug, many of which have been clustered downtown.

From July 31 to Aug. 13, the Anchorage Fire Department made 110 medical transports for "known or suspected" Spice use across Anchorage, assistant chief of emergency medical service operations Erich Scheunemann said last week.

When using Spice, "people sometimes develop moderate to severe adverse health consequences, including vomiting, muscle spasms, seizures, hallucinations, confusion, and suicidal thoughts. In some cases, Spice has been linked to heart attacks and deaths," state epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin said in Tuesday's release.

"At this point, the bulk of the medical transports have involved young adults; however, there have been many transports involving adolescents," McLaughlin said. "Parents should warn their children about the dangers of using Spice and strongly instruct them to stay away from it."

Spice is typically made by spraying psychotropic compounds onto plant materials. It's a cheap high that is difficult to regulate because manufacturers often switch ingredients as soon as a chemical compound is made illegal.

Police said they believe those recently hospitalized may have used Spice that was combined "with flora that has 'hemlock-like' characteristics."