Image of spice packaging and synthetic marijuana

The nation’s newspapers have been filled with headlines about an epidemic of teenagers and young adults being rushed to emergency rooms or calling poison control centers after using a trendy new drug called Spice. Duped into a false sense of security by dishonest advertising claiming the drug is harmless and “natural,” and attracted by the ready availability, millions of young people are experimenting with the newly discovered drug. These encounters have resulted in unexpected and frightening symptoms – sometimes even death.

Authorities are greatly concerned about the recent spike in emergencies related to Spice, yet are unable to effectively combat the overwhelming influx of the drug into American cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Use of Spice crosses all social boundaries of race, class, sex, and age, and authorities are warning that without increased awareness and education, the situation will likely worsen.

What is Spice?

Spice, or synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, Moon Rock, Skunk, and many other names, is a term used for a variety of herbal mixtures laced with chemicals that produce a ‘high’ similar to marijuana. The herb and plant material that makes up the base of the drug are usually claimed to be harmless, but testing has shown that the plants listed on the packaging aren’t present in the product, and the actual ingredients are unclear. The active ingredients are artificial cannabinoid designer drugs that closely mimic THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. It is most commonly smoked, although it is sometimes made into a drink by herbal infusion.

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Synthetic marijuana products first appeared in the early 2000’s, and for many years they were completely legal and widely available in gas stations, convenience stores, and head shops. They quickly became popular as a legal, cheap alternative to marijuana. It was also popular because it didn’t show up in drug tests, although new tests have been devised and that is no longer the case.

Concerned over the popularity of Spice and the increasing incidents of users experiencing serious adverse reactions, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) designated the five most commonly used chemicals found in synthetic marijuana as Schedule 1 controlled substances in 2012, making it illegal to buy, sell, or possess them. However, the manufacturers of the drug, mostly based in China, have responded by slightly changing the chemical structure of the ingredients, evading the law, which is very specific. The product changes so quickly that authorities are hard pressed to keep up.

What Are the Effects and Symptoms of Spice?

Spice users report experiencing the same euphoric and relaxed feelings that they get from smoking marijuana, and often a more intense high that occurs much more quickly. To date, there have been no formal studies focusing on the effects of Spice use on the brain, but it is known that the artificial cannabinoid chemicals used in the drug react with the same brain cell receptors that THC does, and also that they react more strongly, which could account for the more intense and faster onset of the effects.

teen passing a joint of spice aka synthetic marijuana

Many people have serious physical reactions after using Spice including extreme paranoia and anxiety, coma, hallucinations, high heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, tingling and numbness in the extremities, tremors, seizures, and aggressive behavior. Several deaths have been attributed to Spice use. There is also credible evidence that Spice is addictive.

If you or someone you know is using Spice and you’d like more information about it, you should speak to an experienced professional. We’re available for a free consultation, always completely confidential.

Sources:

  1. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/k2spice-synthetic-marijuana
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/health/surge-in-hospital-visits-linked-to-a-drug-called-spice-alarms-health-officials.html?_r=0

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