There is a legal drug on the streets and teenagers are at risk the drug looks like marijuana and mimics its effects but is much more dangerous. Spice, K2, Serenity, Genie.these are just a few of the names that this marijuana imitator is called. It’s available in head shops, gas stations and tobacco stores and is sold as incense. there are usually disclaimers on the packaging stating that it is meant to be used as incense and is not for human consumption; but that is exactly what people are doing: smoking it.
Developed by Dr. John W. Huffman, a researcher at Clemson University, Spice was originally intended for research on animals and cell cultures. the research that Dr. Huffman conducted was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and focused on how THC and its synthetic counterparts bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These receptors regulate bodily functions including temperature control, food intake, perception, memory, problem solving and some hormone functions. the synthetic concoctions bind more fully to these receptors and can also bind to CB2 cannabinoid receptors that regulate the immune system. Just from this information, it is clear that these substances are very dangerous and parents should be worried. According to Dr. Huffman, these imitators were never meant for human consumption and in his words, using Spice is like playing Russian roulette. No one knows how long it stays in the body or what the long-term effects are.
There are many different variations of the chemical but the two most common are JWH-018 and JWH-073. the compound is sprayed onto herbs so that it looks like incense or marijuana and is then rolled into joints and smoked, smoked in pipes and even inhaled via the fumes through a vaporizer. the high starts slowly and then comes on with surprising potency.
Why be worried? if it’s just a variation on pot then it’s not a big deal, right? Wrong the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that it has received almost 2000 calls this year about negative and frightening side effects from Spice and the Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Control Program lists Spice as a chemical of concern. Thought to be up to 5 times as potent as marijuana, side effects include agitation, rapid heart rate, confusion, dizziness and nausea. even scarier, some users have been admitted to emergency rooms with seizures and hallucinations.
Up until very recently there has not been a test that could screen for Spice and standard drug panels do not catch it. Teens brought in with pot-like behavior tested negative for drugs and didn’t admit using Spice so parents and medical staff alike were confused. A urine test for synthetic marijuana has been developed that can detect metabolites of JWH-018 and JWH-073. Because the test looks for the parent drug and multiple metabolites, it is hoped that this is a reliable, accurate test.
So how are parents supposed to determine what drug their child has taken when they get suspicious or worried? Parents should be on the lookout for something that looks like incense and teens who seem more anxious than usual. Although you won’t know for sure, you have more information to go on and can seek the right kind of help.