• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 57s

Episode 27: Spice Roulette

By KTVA Alaska 6:26 PM November 1, 2015

“Spice Roulette” is a dangerous game for both Anchorage’s homeless and the city itself.

On Tuesday of this week, photojournalist Emily Landeen and I witnessed a spice meltdown outside Bean’s Café, where the homeless congregate for meals and temporary comfort from the outdoors.

We were asking the clients to share their insights on the toll that spice, a form of synthetic marijuana, is taking on the homeless. A few spoke to us, and we are grateful for their courage, because others told us they feared retaliation from other spice users and drug dealers.

As we were interviewing one man, another young guy named Jeff kept badgering us, telling us he wanted to be interviewed.

Although I was a little surprised after being turned down so much, I told him we would do so, as soon as we finished our interview. After we were done, I looked around and saw Jeff on the sidewalk smoking something. We approached him, asked if we could put a microphone on him and he mumbled something about wanting to become a TV star.

In a matter of minutes, we saw Jeff turn into a drooling, incoherent mess.

Bean’s security staff called an ambulance. Medics carried him away to the emergency room after they were unable to get any response from him.

We debated whether we should blur Jeff’s face — but decided not to, because we wanted you to see how quickly spice acts, and why it sends so many to the emergency room for life-threatening reactions.

This scene has repeated itself frequently since July — with emergency responders coming several times a day to Bean’s to attend to spice cases. In the month of October, Anchorage medics responded to 30 spice-related calls.

In this program, we look at the threat not just to spice users, but to the public at large.

We hear from many voices:

  • Homeless alcoholics and addicts who have tried spice and nearly died from it
  • Dr. Michael Levy, an emergency room physician at Alaska Regional Hospital and the medical director for the Anchorage Fire Department’s EMS services. Levy talks about the threat to patients, who are waiting for care, as emergency room staffers scramble to deal with several spice cases at once
  • Dr. Michael Cooper, an epidemiologist who heads up the state’s infectious disease department, which is researching the chemical makeup of spice found on patients taken to the emergency room. He gives us an update on the latest findings.
  • Anchorage Fire Chief Denis LeBlanc, who has personally gone out on spice calls to understand the toll it’s taking on some of the city’s most vulnerable, as well as his first responders.
  • Lt. Sean Case, dayshift supervisor for the Anchorage Police Department. Case gives an update on police investigations into spice dealers and efforts taken to crack down on them.

We hope this edition of Frontiers helps Alaskans understand the true dangers of the drug.

For many in Anchorage, the outbreak of spice cases is simply not on their radar screen — since most of it occurs in places downtown, where the homeless congregate, and not in their backyard. But the reality is these cases tie up public safety services that might be needed elsewhere.

And those in charge of Anchorage’s public safety system fear we are playing a game of spice roulette, in which the day will come where someone who’s in need of services won’t get them in time.

Latest Stories

  • Sports

    Native Youth Olympics highlight culture, camaraderie for competitors

    by Heather Hintze on Apr 27, 20:21

    For athletes at the 2017 Native Youth Olympics (NYO), the games are all about culture and community. “My favorite part about NYO is the camaraderie between everyone,” said Allie Ivanoff, a sophomore in Unalakleet. “You can go up to a person and they’ll coach you if you need it. Everything is about sportsmanship in this […]

  • Politics

    Wasilla representative casts lone no vote on bill honoring Alaska’s Hmong veterans

    by Liz Raines on Apr 27, 20:07

    A state lawmaker known for going against the grain on votes with racial undercurrents sparked controversy Thursday. Rep. David Eastman (R-Wasilla) was the lone vote against a bill in the Alaska House to honor Hmong veterans who supported the United States in the Vietnam War. Eastman also voted against a bill honoring black soldiers earlier […]

  • Politics

    Eastman calls for reprimand after LeDoux blocks committee debate

    by Liz Raines on Apr 27, 19:38

    There are more signs of friction in Juneau this week. The latest example came between two fellow Republicans in the House, when a seemingly non-controversial committee meeting became anything but. It ended with one lawmaker calling for a reprimand of the House Rules Committee chair, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage). Rep. David Eastman (R-Wasilla) is calling […]

  • News

    State fire investigator takes stand on Day 5 of Sockeye Fire trial

    by Shannon Ballard on Apr 27, 19:15

    Memories of the 2015 Sockeye Fire were reignited Thursday, five days into the state’s case against the Anchorage couple accused of starting the destructive blaze — Greg Imig and Amy DeWitt. In recorded interviews, Imig repeatedly told fire investigators there was no way the more than 7,000 acre wildfire could have started on his property, but state […]

  • News

    Trump to sign order aimed at expanding offshore drilling

    by Associated Press on Apr 27, 17:11

    President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Friday that could lead to the future expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The order will direct his interior secretary to review a plan that dictates which locations are open to offshore drilling. It’s Trump’s latest effort to dismantle his predecessor’s environmental legacy and […]

  • On-Air

    Reality check w/ John Tracy: Grading Trump’s first 100 days in office

    by John Tracy on Apr 27, 16:57

    The press is fixated this week on grading Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. The grade depends on exactly what you’re grading the president on. First, by objective standards, the president has signed 28 bills into law — far more than his two predecessors, and more than Bill Clinton. He’s also signed more executive […]

  • Anchorage police make 2 DUI arrests at same location

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 27, 16:35

    Police arrested two separate motorists on DUI charges at an Anchorage gas station early Sunday morning. The first driver, 33-year-old Duane Nash, was pulled over for speeding on Minnesota Drive shortly before 4 a.m., according to a release from the Anchorage Police Department. After he pulled into a gas station parking lot on Spenard Road, police noticed […]

  • News

    Latest: Tillerson says China asked North Korea to stop nuke tests

    by Associated Press on Apr 27, 16:06

    The Latest on tensions on the Korean Peninsula (all times local): 6:35 p.m. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says China has asked North Korea to conduct no further nuclear tests. Tillerson says China also told the U.S. that it had informed North Korea “that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be […]