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Shelters struggle to keep ‘Spice’ off the premises

By Lauren Maxwell 10:40 PM October 2, 2013

People high on synthetic drug are appearing more often

ANCHORAGE – Police say the number of people using synthetic marijuana is on the rise in Anchorage and so is the violent behavior that often comes with it. Drugs like “Spice” are dangerous, but easy to obtain. One place where Spice is showing up more often is at homeless shelters.

“We are a ‘damp’ shelter,” said Catholic Social Service’s Susan Bomalaski, referring to the Brother Francis Shelter. “People can be using and still come in, as long as their behaviors are okay. But then we started seeing really unpredictable violent behavior changes that came on very quickly.”

It’s a hallmark of the drugs billed as synthetic marijuana, where a user can go from a peaceful state to a violent rage in just minutes. That makes them dangerous, not just to themselves but anyone around them.

“It’s frightening for both our clients and our staff because somebody is so unpredictable when they are on Spice,” said Lisa Sauder, director of Bean’s Café. “Something that normally wouldn’t bother them may set them off and a lot of times they become very physical.”

Spice is also a big issue for the Anchorage Safety Center, where the people they pick up off the streets are becoming younger and often on Spice. The center has seen a big increase in Spice-related assaults.

Police say getting the drug off the streets has proved frustrating. Many of the ingredients in the drug have been outlawed, but manufacturers change them regularly to stay one step ahead of the law.

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