Synthetic Drug Popularity on the Rise

K2, Spice, Serenity, Genie, Smoke, Hush – these are just a few on the long list of brand names and nicknames given to synthetic marijuana, the new drug of choice for many teens and adults across the country.  In ACS’ Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program, some of our own clients have admitted to using Spice or know of people who do.  A drug that was virtually unknown a couple years ago has since become quite popular and easy to obtain.

Synthetic marijuana (or cannabinoids) is a chemical compound that mimics the effects of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.  Synthetic marijuana, or Spice as it is sometimes called, is legal in most states and offers a high up to four times stronger than marijuana.  These two factors have a lot to do with its increase in popularity.  These products are often sold at convenience stores and are marketed as incense.  While the companies that make these products print on the packaging, “Not for Consumption,” it doesn’t seem to be enough to deter people from smoking it.

According to Redwood Toxicology Laboratory, “There have been many reports about the adverse effects including agitation, rapid heart rate, confusion, dizziness and nausea.  The American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a warning about the dangers of synthetic marijuana products in March 2010.”

Marijuana is not the only drug out there right now that comes in synthetic form.  Synthetic stimulants are being sold online and in smoke shops across the country.  “Bath salts” or “plant food” are what they are being marketed as, suggesting they are not for human consumption (click here to read our previous post about bath salts).  However, like the synthetic marijuana products available, suggestive text is not enough to deter people from getting a legal high on these drugs that do not show up on standard drug test.

We now have the capability to test for these substances at ACS through Redwood Toxicology Laboratory, in addition to our “usual” drug screens.   Connie Mayer, Director of ACS’ Outpatient Counseling Services said, “I am trying to stay up to date with drugs teens are using and drugs that parents may want us to test for. A friend of a teen in our program was hospitalized last week overdosing on ‘spice’ and almost didn’t make it.”  At ACS, we are committed to keeping on top of trends that may relate to our clients and that the community can benefit learning from.  If you suspect your child or someone you know may be using drugs, synthetic or otherwise, ACS is here to help.

In this excerpt from NBC’s The Today Show on July 14, 2011, Illinois mother Karen Dobner says her teen son died behind the wheel after smoking iAroma, a so-called “synthetic marijuana” product that many teens believe is a safe and legal way to get high. To watch the full video follow this link