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Addiction Prevention Synthetic Drugs

In the News: Synthetic Marijuana aka Crazy Clown

Crazy Clown Drug
Crazy Clown (Photo credit: yewenyi)

Synthetic Marijuana is back in the news, this time under the names “Crazy Clown” or “Herbal Madness Incense.” Eight teens and young adults were sent to the hospital in Georgia this weekend because of the effects of this drug. The CDC is investigating this latest designer drug incarnation and has issued a warning. The use of synthetic marijuana is incredibly dangerous and presents a growing public health concern. According to the CDC:

Sixteen cases of synthetic cannabinoid-related acute kidney injury occurred in six states in 2012. Synthetic cannabinoids, which are sold in smoke shops and convenience stores under names like ‘synthetic marijuana,’ ‘Spice,’ ‘K2,’ or ‘herbal incense,’ are designer drugs dissolved in solvent, applied to plant material, and smoked. These psychoactive drugs can have a significant effect on mood or behavior, but also carry the risk of unpredictable toxicity. The growing use of synthetic cannabinoid products is an emerging public health concern. The sixteen cases reported in this study developed kidney damage after smoking synthetic cannabinoid products. In seven of the cases, analyses of the products or blood or urine samples found a unique cannabinoid called XLR-11. These products are often sold as incense and labeled “Not for Human Consumption.” Despite the labeling, individuals use the products as an alternative to marijuana use.  There is a risk that some cannabinoid compounds may be toxic and the health effects may not be easily predictable because of what is still unknown about the products. However, it is important that clinicians, scientists, public health officials, and law enforcement are alerted about the emerging adverse health effects from synthetic drug use.”

Symptoms from the use of this latest version of synthetic marijuana include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry Mouth
  • Weakness
  • Cardiac Problems
  • Paralysis

We’ve written about Spice, K2, Cloud Nine, bath salts, and all other incarnations of these designer drugs before. They are enticing, especially to teens and young adults looking for a cheap, quick high.  Because these drugs are easily obtained at liquor stores and convenience marts, their often innocuous packaging makes them seem harmless or just “fun.”

 

For now, the active ingredient is unknown, but we know that it is highly dangerous. One of the most troublesome issues regarding synthetic marijuana is the ever-changing ingredients: As soon as one ingredient is banned, it morphs into something new, creating a maelstrom of issues for law enforcement, medical professionals, and the CDC. Usually new synthetic marijuana is discovered because of an increase in ER visits. This stuff is lethal. What looks like a cheap, easy high is more often a fast-track ride to the hospital. It’s not worth it.

 

Categories
Addiction Marijuana Smoking Synthetic Drugs

Marijuana and its Synthetic Counterparts: A Look at a New Study

Part one of a three-part blog, wherein I will begin to address the use of marijuana and synthetic marijuana. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, where I will address the increase in prescription drug and hookah use.

Recent studies elicited by Monitoring the Future (MTF) show a decrease in alcohol consumption and tobacco use; at the same time, they found an increase in the use of alternate tobacco products (hookah, small cigars, smokeless tobacco), marijuana, and prescription drugs.

One explanation for the increase in marijuana consumption is a lower perceived risk: “In recent years, fewer teens report seeing much danger associated with its use, even with regular use.” The call to legalize marijuana has also contributed to this new perception by extinguishing some of the associated stigma. As a result, we are seeing a denial of risk and a decline in disapproval amongst our adolescent counterparts. There seems to be a viable change in societal norms occurring at the adolescent level. No longer is marijuana use relegated to the “losers,” but rather it is now part and parcel to one’s normative social interactions with anyone, regardless of socio-economic status. With the advent of synthetic marijuana, the perception of danger has been further clouded by the sheer fact that these synthetic substances can be purchased almost anywhere. The surge in the use of synthetic marijuana products like Spice and K2 has created a maelstrom of reported symptoms which include:

  • paranoia;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • hallucinations, and;
  • psychotic episodes.

We currently see more and more kids coming into treatment with a history of Spice and K2 use. And Gil Kerlikoeske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) points out that, “Poison control center data across America has shown a substantial rise in the number of calls from victims suffering serious consequences from these synthetic drugs.” Currently, the House has voted on a ban of synthetic drugs like Spice, K2, bath salts, et cetera, asking that it be added to the “highly restrictive Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.” So far, approximately 40 states have passed laws which criminalize Spice and other synthetic substances.

Whether banned or not, there needs to be open dialogue about Spice and K2 and its various counterparts. These synthetics are popping up faster than the DEA can regulate them, proving that the drug environment is changing before our eyes. As such, it’s imperative we stay fluent in the language of our teens, and the social environments in which they operate. We all know the “thrill of the high” is often associated with the verboten nature of its purchase and consumption. Open dialogue removes the mystery, and frankly, it’s not enough to rely upon the justice system to provide the answers.

Categories
Addiction Synthetic Drugs

Spice: Your Synthetic Nightmare

Spice, K2, Cloud Nine, Potpourri: call it what you will, it’s all the same: a legal, synthetic, psychotropic drug lurking at the counters of your local liquor store.  Some use these drugs once and walk away, disillusioned by the multitude of negative effects. The addiction-prone continue, disregarding the negative nuances, anxious to get high.  Addiction is funny that way: the bad never seems bad enough to stop.

Recently, 20/20 did an exposé on bath salts, K2, and Spice, exposing the dangers and widespread concern amidst parents and law enforcement officials. Our medical director, Dr. David Lewis, addressed some of the risks related to these substances, telling 20/20: “If you take a developing brain and you put a tremendously psychoactive substance in the middle of that, that developing brain, what you really have is a chemistry experiment.” Dr. Lewis is all too familiar with the negative consequences manifesting in kids who have been using these drugs, and like parents, he also worries about the ease with which one can purchase K2 and Spice. Lewis says, “These people sell the drugs to our kids, no matter what the consequences are.” When 20/20 sent in hidden cameras with underage kids, the truth of this was caught on tape. The retailers are in it for the buck. Show them the money, and they’ll sell you the drugs, regardless of the 18-and-over age restriction.

Unfortunately, this rampant, devil-may-care attitude is substantiated by Dan Francis, the Executive Director of The Retail Compliance Association, who says, “a ban is dangerous” because it “sends it underground.” He even questions the government, saying,” What is wrong with euphoria and what gave them the right to regulate it?” Nothing is wrong with euphoria if it’s obtained through non-harming activities like completing a marathon, or a 2-hour Ashtanga yoga class. But that’s not what’s happening here—instead shops are selling a chemical recipe for disaster. We essentially have kids purchasing substances that have the capability of eliciting a desire to self-harm or increase the potentiality of suicidal ideation. It would be irresponsible if we ignored it.

Related articles:

Stores Fight Proposed Federal Ban on Spice, ‘Legal Marijuana’ (abcnews.go.com)

Synthetic pot can cause psychosis that can last for months, research shows (thenewstribune.com)

Teens Able to Purchase ‘Legal Pot,’ Despite Potentially Deadly Side Effects (abcnews.go.com)

Categories
Addiction Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic Doesn’t Mean Safe

Sometimes marketed as incense or an herbal smoking blend, synthetic marijuana is readily available for teens via the internet and some drug paraphernalia shops.  Rather than banning the products themselves (Spice, K2, Blaze, and Red X Dawn), the FDA is seeking to ban the 5 chemicals used to create the herbal blends. The FDA wants to place the chemicals in the same category as heroin and cocaine, due to increased reports of  seizures, dependency of poison centers, hallucinations, hospitals, and law enforcement as a result of its use.

Synthetic or not, it’s still a drug, and it still has the potential to contribute to one’s addiction issues. Sprayed with psychotropic chemicals, this herbal and spice mixture is touted as providing users with an elevated, meditative state, similar to the effect found with marijuana use. However, instead of the alleged mellow effects sought by its users, the statistics show high reports of heightened blood pressure, high levels of anxiety, seizures, nausea, severe agitation, and hallucinations.  While more testing is needed, findings suggest this drug is effecting not only the cardiovascular system, but also the central nervous system of its users. In plain speak: it’s dangerous.

Are you worried your kid might be using? If so, you might want to look for dried herbs in unlikely places…their room, for instance, or their backpacks. What does a teen really want with something that looks like oregano, right? You can also look for some of these physical signs:

  • Agitation
  • Pale appearance
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion.

It’s good the FDA is taking a stance on this–between the ease of availability and the implication of harmlessness, we place our kids and ourselves at heightened risk for the long-term, negative effects of yet another drug.