In the field of drug abuse prevention we’re always playing “catch-up” – tackling seemingly unstoppable juggernauts that have years of momentum. We almost never have a chance to get ahead of an emerging drug of abuse.
We have that opportunity now.
“Synthetic marijuana,” sold under various names, like “K2” and “Spice,” is quickly establishing a foothold among our Nation’s youth. At Oregon Partnership we recently received a call from a mother whose son woke her up in the middle of the night, screaming, convulsing and hallucinating from smoking synthetic marijuana. At the emergency room his heart was racing, his breathing was labored and he was begging his mother “Please don’t let me die!”
Synthetic Marijuana is cheap. It’s undetectable by traditional marijuana (THC) screening methods. And, in most states, it’s legal. In fact, youth refer to it as “legal marijuana” and word is spreading quickly that it defies the usual detection screenings.
It is sold in head shops and hookah stores as incense with a broad wink and a note that it’s “not for human consumption.” But people, seeking a high, are smoking it, and some have been showing up in emergency rooms with agitation, hallucinations, vomiting, high blood pressure and elevated heart rates. One of the chemical compounds sprayed on synthetic marijuana – JWH-018 – binds with the brain’s receptors that bind THC, but at four to five times the impact of THC.
Several countries, including Britain, France and Germany have banned K2 and similar products. Additionally, nine states have also banned these products and several others have legislation in development to ban them.
We need to seize the opportunity to get ahead of this problem by taking similar action across the United States.