Synthetic marijuana- known for its THC-like high, causes a euphoric effect. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it’s made up of a variety of herbal plants and coated with any number of chemicals called ‘synthetic cannabinoids’.
According to the American Association of Chemical Chemistry, It was first introduced in Europe, back in 2006 It eventually made its way here to the US by 2009, where easy access has made it a top choice, especially among young people. Dr. William Aron is a Psychiatrist with the Recovery Clinic of Mississippi says, “Adolescents, teenagers, young people are the primary abusers of synthetic marijuana.” Dr. Aron also says that 70% of teenager visits to the emergency room have been caused by synthetic marijuana. And, according to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, Spice abuse has been rising steadily. Lt. Crieg Oster says, “Over the past five years, we’ve seen an influx, especially in this administration, of Spice.”
A study done by the University of Washington, shows synthetic marijuana use is also popular among military personnel, because the chemicals used often go undetected in drug screenings. “Generally, that’s one of the reasons why they’re in more common use, is because a lot of the drug testing won’t pick them up.”, explains Dr. Aron.
Marketed as a “Legal High”, synthetic marijuana could be found in gas stations and convenient stores for easily $8.00-$20.00 per packet, appearing to many as the perfect substitute for marijuana. It was cheap, produced a high, and was 100% legal. So it must be safe, right?
“The chemicals that are used in synthetic marijuana are generally much, much more potent... 100x or 50x, 100x more potent.”, warns Dr. Aron.
In fact, the chemical used can be so potent that some users not only got high, but according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, also experienced side effects such as:
Severe Agitation and Anxiety Racing Heart beat and Dangerously High Blood Pressure Nausea and Vomiting Muscle Spasms, Seizures, and Tremors Intense hallucinations, psychotic episodes, and suicidal thoughts
“The problem is it’s unpredictability… You never know what you’re getting.”, says Dr. Aron
Lt. Oster says, “Regardless of what people read or say, it’s not good for you.”
Take the case of Emily Baur, a Texas teen who’s experience with Spice left her near death... she suffered several strokes, has been left permanently brain damaged, blind, and unable to walk.
In an effort to get synthetic marijuana off the streets, in 2010 the Drug Enforcement Administration designated the most common active ingredients in Spice as schedule 1 controlled substances.
In fact, the 2012 passing of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, explicitly bans 15 synthetic cannabinoids. However, the legislation hasn’t been enough to deter manufacturers.
Lt. Oster explains, “The way Spice is made, chemists and scientists were changing the molecules of Spice just to keep it right below the threshold of legal.”
Though, still legal in some states, synthetic drugs are banned across the board here in Mississippi, but they still pose a threat.
Just last month, DEA agents made over 150 arrests and seized $20 million in cash and assets from synthetic drug operations in 29 states, including Mississippi.
If you get caught with synthetic marijuana here, you face the same penalties associated with marijuana, which can mean steep fines and even jail time.
One thing that’s for certain, when it comes to using Synthetic marijuana, the message is clear... Don’t be fooled.
“Spice is no better than marijuana, you go chemicals, you got THC. It’s just like ICE, Methamphetamine, and everything else.”, says Lt. Oster.
Dr. Aron says, “Synthetic marijuana is a very, very risky product to use because it’s so unpredictable.” And for anyone thinking natural marijuana is harmless, Dr. Aron says its use has been shown to lower your IQ.