News of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, has cropped up again in the news as it returns to many local businesses after a ban placed by The Drug Enforcement Administration on five chemicals last year. Florida Governor Rick Scott is trying to end the issue for good, with the signing of an amendment that would add 29 new chemical compounds to the list of prohibited controlled substances by this fall. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies have also recently given contributing store owners a chance to get the products off their shelves for good.
What is it and how does it work? K2 is a synthetic form of marijuana that is often sold at convenience stores and gas stations in attractive, brightly colored bags marketed as potpourri or incense. It is made by creating a concoction of plants and herbs, and then sprayed with a chemical that produce the effects similar to marijuana. These artificial products mimic marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, and bind to similar receptors in the brain. They are dangerous because you never know the dosage you are receiving or what the exact contents are in each package, as the mixture is always changing. Although these products have been banned in the past, they are currently legal after manufactures produced different mixtures of the contributing chemical compounds as well as adding chemicals not catalogued on the list of banned substances.
Who is interested? Mainly teens, particularly those that are currently abusing drugs and alcohol, may be drawn to K2 and other synthetic drugs because they can’t easily be detected on drug tests and they are easy to attain.
What are the effects? The side effects are completely unpredictable, and can be anything from increased anxiety, nausea, vomiting, hypertension, and elevated blood pressure, to hallucinations, increased aggression, extreme paranoia, panic attacks, seizures, and suicide. Since the drug is so new, long-term effects are currently unknown, but repeated use could lead to memory loss or possibly psychosis. Poison control centers nationwide have indicated that there has been a considerable increase of the use of designer drugs like K2 in recent years. The Health Department also stated that there have been a number of deaths and record numbers of emergency room visits linked to the use of synthetic marijuana.
How to get help? Often students or adults addicted or abusing substances are often self-medicating a bigger issue, so it’s good to speak to a counselor. Often times K2 is so toxic it can stay in the system for longer than 30 days so if someone needs a drug rehabilitation program they need 30-45 days just to get it out of their system. If it’s still in their system then they are still influenced by the drug and will have difficulty thinking rationally and looking at their issues. So they may not benefit from the therapy until they are off the drug for 45 days and often the fog is lifted and they are able to benefit from the treatment.
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Author: Tiffany Justice, BS Psychology