Often I write about interesting designer drugs that can be used as murder weapons (like “Molly” in a previous blog). Today, I’d like to discuss another popular designer drug that’s periodically in the news.
Synthetic marijuana first appeared in the United States around 2009. It’s a psychoactive designer drug created by spraying natural herbs with legal chemicals that imitate the effects of cannabis.
The chemicals used in the spray are called cannabinoids because they mimic the effects of real cannabis. They’re used to avoid the laws that make cannabis illegal and, although these chemicals do create a psychotropic effect, they don’t produce positive drug test results.
The detrimental effects of using synthetic marijuana, however, include severe agitation and delirium, confusion and extreme sleepiness, kidney damage and seizures.
The drug is increasingly popular among the teen crowd, with the biggest users in the 12-17 year-old age category. That’s because the product often is sold in stores as a household item and is sometimes labeled as herbal incense. In other retail establishments, like head shops and convenience stores, the product is marketed as “K2” or “Spice”.
Between 2011 and 2015, more than 20 deaths have been attributed to K2 overdoses, and in the last week K2 caused 52 patients to be treated by Austin-Travis County EMS personnel in Austin, Texas for severe reactions.
The hidden dangers of synthetic psychoactive drugs, like synthetic cannabis, are that the legal chemicals used to mimic the psychotropic effects of the real drug often create a psychosis; that is, they facilitate the onset or worsening of existing psychiatric disorders and therefore can produce enhanced hallucinations, delusions, violence and impaired insight. So anyone with a predisposition to a psychotic episode could be pushed over the edge by using these legal alternatives.
When a product is designed to mimic the effects of an illegal drug but is made with legal ingredients, the DEA must create a specific law to make that product illegal. Until that happens, the drug is considered “unofficial but legal” in many jurisdictions. But, as soon as the DEA outlaws a specific drug, a new variation is often designed and marketed as the next big thrill.
Statistics show that there’s a growing parallel market, called the grey market, for these alternatives to illegal drugs, and as soon as their use is made illegal new ones become available. The DEA has identified over 200 such new substances in the last five years alone.
It would seem possible to stem their growth by heightened laws and enforcement, but I continue to wonder if a more prudent approach would be public education starting at an early age regarding the dangers of using these “pop up drugs” ~
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!