Natural ingredients, legal use, lower cost…it must be healthy, right?
The deadly misconception above has led to a growing number of fatalities brought on by synthetic or “designer” drugs.
Use of synthetic marijuana – sold under names like Spice, K2, Green Giant, Wicked X, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and other inventive names – is on the rise, causing increasing numbers of adverse and even fatal effects.
The Down-Low on Spice
Sure; Spice really does contain a few spices, but that’s not all. The dried oregano, basil, and other plant materials that are used are coated with chemicals. These chemicals, when smoked, produce effects similar to THC, the active compound found in marijuana. Attaching to the same brain receptors as cannabis, they create similar mental effects (but with higher risks.)
Labeled as an herbal mixture, incense, or potpourri, spice is sold in head shops and small grocery stores. Marketed as “natural,” the active ingredients in Spice are actually synthetic. Its popularity is due, in part, to its low price, costing buyers much less than marijuana.
Claims that Spice is harder to detect on drug screens have also fueled its popularity.
What are the Dangers of Spice?
The claim that Spice is “natural and harmless” is nothing more than a blatant lie. In fact, most experts agree that synthetic cannabis is much more harmful than naturally-grown cannabis.
The synthetic chemicals linger in the brain, binding up to 1,000 times more powerfully within brain receptors. They are also lacking cannabidiol, found in natural cannabis plants. This ingredient acts as a protective agent by lessening extreme or psychotic symptoms produced by cannabis. Due to these characteristics, Spice can have long-term effects on the brain.
Side effects of Spice can include:
- Confusion and Paranoia
- Rapid heart rate
- Myocardial Ischemia
- Heart Attack
- Psychotic and Violent Behavior
- Renal Failure
- Loss of Consciousness
- High Blood Pressure
A Look at the Social Effects
Spice usage has caused a huge spike in poison control calls and hospital visits. Between April 1 and June 30, more than 1,900 ER visits and 680 poison control center calls were the result of Spice use. These numbers are ten times higher than those for the same time period in 2014. And these are just New York State’s statistics.
The New England Journal of Medicine has reported large-spread usage resulting in severe reactions and deaths across the nation. In fact, 15 synthetic cannabinoid-related deaths were reported nationwide between January and May of 2015. Use of designer drugs has also increased in Europe.
Who are the High-risk Groups?
These drugs are cheaper than marijuana. This makes those in poverty a high-risk group for Spice usage. People with mental illness and those living in shelters or group homes are common users.
Their ease of access and lower cost has also popularized synthetics among young people. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that Spice products are now the second-most used illicit drugs for high school seniors.
Fighting the Use of Spice
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is working to curb the production and distribution of these synthetics. By designating chemicals found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, the DEA has made them illegal to possess, sell, and buy. Unfortunately, producers of Spice find their way around these laws by changing the makeup of the drug.
While law enforcement does what it can to stay ahead of this threat, individuals must fight this battle on a personal level. If you know someone who is using Spice, warn them of its dangerous effects. Educate them, then let them know how and where they can get help.
Additional Reading: Shocking Stories Reveal Serious Dangers of Flakka
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