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Entries in Spice (11)

Tuesday
Nov272012

Synthetic Marijuana: "Illegal as Cocaine" in New Jersey

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It may be marketed as fake weed, but synthetic marijuana is now subject to real drug law in New Jersey.

The state’s ban on synthetic marijuana was made permanent Tuesday, as Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced it was classified as a Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substance.  A temporary ban was enacted in February, but would have expired later this month without an extension.

The substance, which is sold under brand names such as K2 and Spice, is a mix of natural herbs sprayed with JWH-018, a chemical that mimics the effects of THC.  When smoked, it can induce euphoria – what many users call a “legal high.”

But as the small packets of herbs have become a national trend in youth culture, many states and municipalities have taken up laws against them.  Kansas was the first state to ban the substance in 2010, and many have followed suit, most recently New Jersey.

“These drugs have grown in popularity nationwide, despite their alarming and catastrophic side effects,” Chiesa said in a statement.  “Today they are permanently on record as being just as illegal as cocaine or heroin.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar192012

Fake Pot Sending Increasing Number of Kids to ER

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An increasing number of teens and young adults are turning to synthetic marijuana compounds with nicknames such as "K2," "Spice" and "Mr. Smiley" in search of a legal high.  But as several new case reports point out, more and more teens and young adults who use these substances are turning up in hospitals with signs of intoxication.

In the latest edition of the journal Pediatrics, physicians from Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., presented three case studies of teenagers who came to the emergency room after they each ingested fake pot.

Each teen suffered from a variety of serious adverse effects after they ingested these marijuana-mimicking substances.  The authors described symptoms such as rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, excessive sweating and rigidity.  Two of them also became extremely agitated. 

All three survived and were eventually released from the hospital.

"We became concerned about it after seeing these teenagers, and when we researched the literature, we realized there is very little out there about the effects of these compounds," said Dr. Joanna Cohen, lead author and associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine at Children's National Medical Center.  "We wanted to publish these case reports mostly because we wanted to share the information we had gathered to let the medical community know what we were seeing."

These compounds are banned in almost every state, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently extended a ban on some of the chemicals used to produce these substances.

The compounds are relatively new, and clinicians don't always immediately realize what's going on with people who come to emergency rooms after smoking them.  The chemicals also do not show up in routine drug screenings.

The teenagers told medical staff what substances they smoked, which Cohen said is the only way staff knew what caused their symptoms.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar052012

Tainted ‘Spice’ Linked to Kidney Failure Outbreak

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CASPER, Wyo.) -- Health officials in Casper, Wyo., are investigating an outbreak of kidney failure linked to a batch of synthetic marijuana known as “spice.”

Three people were hospitalized Friday and two more were treated and released from a hospital in the eastern Wyoming city of 55,000 residents. The patients, all in their teens and early 20s, reported vomiting, back pain and stomach pain. Officials are investigating reports of two others who reported similar symptoms earlier in the week.

Bob Harrington, director of the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, said the cause of the outbreak was still under investigation, but all of the people who were sickened reported smoking or ingesting blueberry-flavored spice.

Scientists at the Wyoming State Crime Laboratory are investigating the chemicals used in the batch of spice implicated in the illnesses. On Thursday, the Wyoming Department of Health issued a warning to health care providers around the state, alerting them to the potential connection between the drug and the reported symptoms.

“At this point, we are viewing use of this drug as a potentially life-threatening situation,” Dr. Tracy Murphy, the state epidemiologist for the Wyoming Department of Health, said in a statement.

Spice, also known as K2, skunk and moon rocks, is made of plant material laced with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, spice is often marketed to people interested in an alternative to marijuana.

The drug has a range of potentially dangerous effects, including soaring heart rate, elevated blood pressure, vomiting, paranoia, convulsions and hallucinations. In 2010, an Iowa teenager committed suicide shortly after smoking spice.

Although it’s often called “legal marijuana,” several states, including Wyoming, are cracking down on the drug and the chemicals used to make it.  And on Wednesday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration extended a ban on five chemicals commonly used to make spice, citing the need to “prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety,” according to a statement on the DEA website. The action extends a ban on selling or using these chemicals for an additional six months as a permanent ban is considered.

But manufacturers often get around such roadblocks by tweaking spice recipes to swap banned chemicals for alternatives, thereby skirting laws aimed at prohibiting the drug. The drug is usually sold in head shops, certain retail stores and over the Internet.

The use of spice has been on the rise in recent years, particularly among teens and young adults. A 2011 report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 11 percent of seniors in high school reported trying spice in the past year. In the same survey, a third of all 12th graders reported trying marijuana.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan302012

Doctor: Seizures Like Demi Moore's Seen 'Quite Often' After Smoking Spice

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Medical experts say that seizures are a frequent side effect of the use of the synthetic drug "spice," which actress Demi Moore may have been smoking before worried friends called 911 last week to report that the 49-year-old star of such movies as Ghost and G.I. Jane was having "convulsions."

Throughout the distressed 10-minute call, various callers described Moore as "shaking," "semi-conscious," and "burning up" -- all very common adverse reactions to "spice," according to Louisiana Poison Control Center Director Dr. Mark Ryan.

"Seizure and seizure-like activity has been seen quite often with those types of cannabis-like products," Ryan said.

In the tape, a female caller is heard telling the Beverly Hills, Calif., police dispatcher that Moore had "smoked something."

"It's not marijuana but it's similar to -- it's similar to incense," the unnamed woman says. "And she seems to be having convulsions of some sort."

"Incense" is an alternate name for Spice and related products. Spice and related products have often been sold as incense in packaging that says the contents are not to be ingested, but authorities say they are frequently used by teens to mimic the effects of marijuana and other drugs.

According to Ryan, what makes the synthetic drugs particularly risky is that there's "no quality control" in their production process -- spraying chemicals onto plants -- meaning some batches might affect the brain's chemistry at a more dangerous level.

"When someone buys these products, they don't know exactly what ingredient they may be getting and they don't know the amount of the substance that's in there," Ryan said. "So somebody may get one batch and get 5 mg, someone may buy the product around the corner and get 2,000 mg."

In the tape, the dispatcher is heard imploring the callers not to try to give Moore any water and to make sure to keep her airways open.

"Any time that someone's having a seizure like activity, you certainly don't want to introduce anything to their esophagus or airway," Ryan said. "You don't want them to swallow at the same time they're trying to gasp for air."

By the end of the call, Moore had calmed down and stopped convulsing, but Ryan says that's not always the case with those suffering the adverse effects of synthetic drugs, with it possible that somebody can go into a "long period of sustained seizure-like activity."

The government has pushed for synthetic drugs including "spice" and "bath salts," which were previously sold legally across the county, to be taken off the shelves. In December, the House voted 317-98 to ban over 30 of the drugs; the Senate has yet to vote on the bill. The DEA also has a temporary ban in place on five chemicals commonly used in the products.

But according to Ryan, this incident demonstrates just how widely available these drugs remain.

"It doesn't matter which socioeconomic strata that you're from, we're seeing these drugs being used across the board -- all ages, all economic groups," Ryan said. "It's beyond me, but it's still there."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan302012

Doctor: Seizures Like Demi's Seen 'Quite Often' After Smoking Spice

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Medical experts say that seizures are a frequent side effect of the use of the synthetic drug "spice," which actress Demi Moore may have been smoking before worried friends called 911 last week to report that the 49-year-old star of such movies as Ghost and G.I. Jane was having "convulsions."

Throughout the distressed 10-minute call, various callers described Moore as "shaking," "semi-conscious," and "burning up" -- all very common adverse reactions to "spice," according to Louisiana Poison Control Center Director Dr. Mark Ryan.

"Seizure and seizure-like activity has been seen quite often with those types of cannabis-like products," Ryan said.

In the tape, a female caller is heard telling the Beverly Hills, California, police dispatcher that Moore had "smoked something."

"It's not marijuana but it's similar to -- it's similar to incense," the unnamed woman says. "And she seems to be having convulsions of some sort."

"Incense" is an alternate name for Spice and related products. Spice and related products have often been sold as incense in packaging that says the contents are not to be ingested, but authorities say they are frequently used by teens to mimic the effects of marijuana and other drugs.

According to Ryan, what makes the synthetic drugs particularly risky is that there's "no quality control" in their production process -- spraying chemicals onto plants -- meaning some batches might affect the brain's chemistry at a more dangerous level.

"When someone buys these products, they don't know exactly what ingredient they may be getting and they don't know the amount of the substance that's in there," Ryan said. "So somebody may get one batch and get 5 mg, someone may buy the product around the corner and get 2,000 mg."

In the tape, the dispatcher is heard imploring the callers not to try to give Moore any water and to make sure to keep her airways open.

"Any time that someone's having a seizure-like activity, you certainly don't want to introduce anything to their esophagus or airway," Ryan said. "You don't want them to swallow at the same time they're trying to gasp for air."

By the end of the call, Moore had calmed down and stopped convulsing, but Ryan says that's not always the case with those suffering the adverse effects of synthetic drugs, with it possible that somebody can go into a "long period of sustained seizure-like activity."

The government has pushed for synthetic drugs including "spice" and "bath salts," which were previously sold legally across the county, to be taken off the shelves. In December, the House voted 317-98 to ban over 30 of the drugs; the Senate has yet to vote on the bill. The DEA also has a temporary ban in place on five chemicals commonly used in the products.

But according to Ryan, this incident demonstrates just how widely available these drugs remain.

"It doesn't matter which socioeconomic strata that you're from, we're seeing these drugs being used across the board -- all ages, all economic groups," Ryan said. "It's beyond me, but it's still there."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec142011

Teen Smoking, Drinking Down; Marijuana Use Up

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Teen smoking and drinking is currently at historically low numbers, a trend which experts say can be attributed to successful anti-smoking and drinking efforts throughout the past decade.

A new report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that, when compared to use in the mid-90s, adolescent daily smoking was down by 50 percent. Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in a row within the two weeks the survey was conducted, was also down about a quarter since 1997.

Researchers collected data from an annual survey of approximately 50,000 eighth, 10th and 12th grade students throughout the country. The results were presented Wednesday at the National Press Club.

"The decrease is very dramatic," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "But despite the dramatic results, the prevalence of teen smoking and drinking is still high, so we can't become complacent."

About 10 percent of 12th graders reported smoking cigarettes on a daily basis and about 20 percent had smoked cigarettes within the past month of taking the survey, which was down from nearly 40 percent in 1997.

But unlike cigarette use, marijuana use is growing.

"The troublesome news is that marijuana use has been trending upwards in the last few years," said Volkow. "We've seen a significant decline in the perception that marijuana is risky. Fewer kids see smoking marijuana as having bad health effects."

Marijuana use actually declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the past five years showed a steady incline in use among 10th and 12th graders. More than one-third of 12th grade student reported using marijuana within the past year.

Along with marijuana, synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or "Spice," was up with more than 11 percent of 12th graders having reportedly tried it in the past year. Prescription painkiller use was also up.

"Opiates are widely abused among all age groups," said Volkow. "Pain meds are much more widely available and accessible, and I think young people see it as, 'well if they are prescribed by physicians, they can't be so harmful.'"

About six percent of high school seniors had tried painkillers in the past year, and Volkow said about one-third of those students had received the drugs legitimately -- as a prescription.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec082011

House Votes to Ban Fake Marijuana, Fake Cocaine

George Doyle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House Thursday voted to ban a variety of synthetic drugs, including "spice," and "bath salts," that had previously been sold legally in stores throughout the country.

The Synthetic Drug Control Act would add over 30 synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of marijuana and cocaine to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to manufacture or dispense. It would also grant the Drug Enforcement Agency more authority to place temporary bans on potentially dangerous drugs as they are investigated.

The bill passed by a vote of 317-98; some Democrats argued the law would make it harder for scientists to obtain needed chemicals for medical research.

An ABC News investigation that aired on "20/20" earlier this year found that spice and bath salts, despite being linked to multiple deaths, were being sold to teenagers across the country with little to no oversight.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who introduced the bill, said in a statement Thursday that he was shocked when he first learned that these drugs were being sold legally in stores and online.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where Rep. Dent said he is "hopeful" it will be passed quickly.

"I am confident banning the sale of dangerous synthetic drugs will help save lives in communities across the United States," said Dent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Jun072011

Legalize Marijuana, Says Inventor of 'Spice' Chemicals

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When John W. Huffman invented a whole class of chemicals that mimic the effect of marijuana on the human brain, he never intended for them to launch a whole "legal marijuana" industry.

But now that "Spice" and other forms of imitation pot are sending users to emergency rooms across America, the retired professor has an idea of how to stem the epidemic. If the federal government would legalize the real thing, says Huffman, maybe consumers wouldn't turn to the far more dangerous fake stuff.

Huffman, who developed more than 400 "cannabinoids" as an organic chemist at Clemson University, says that marijuana has the benefit of being a known quantity, and not a very harmful one. "The scientific evidence is that it's not a particularly dangerous drug," said Huffman.

The "JWH" class of compounds that Huffman invented to mimic marijuana's effects, meanwhile, have not been tested the same way. "The physiological compounds effects of [JWH] compounds have never been examined in humans," said Huffman. What we do know, he says, is that "it doesn't hit the brain in the same way as marijuana, and that's why it's dangerous."

While they are known to elevate blood pressure -- unlike marijuana -- and to cause increased heart rate and anxiety, to date most of the evidence of their effects is anecdotal, and comes from things like visits to emergency rooms. "There have been a number of people who've committed suicide after using them," said Huffman.

Huffman began working on the cannabinoids in the early 1990s using a grant from the National Institute for Drug Abuse. He published academic papers that gave information on the chemical steps to make the compounds, including JWH-018, one of the easiest of the class to make and the one most often found in Spice products.

"JWH-018 can be made by a halfway decent undergraduate chemistry major," said Huffman, "in three steps using commercially available materials."

In 2008, says Huffman, someone sent him an article from the German magazine Der Spiegel about a young man using the JWH chemicals to get high. He subsequently learned that the "imitation marijuana" drugs based on his chemicals had popped up in Europe in 2006, not long after he'd published a paper describing how to make the compounds. The compounds were also being used commercially in South Korea as a plant growth product, and Huffman speculates that they migrated from there to China, where they are now being manufactured for use in Spice.

"I figured that somewhere along the line, some enterprising individual would try to smoke it," said Huffman. He didn't figure that it would become a global industry.

Anyone who ingests it recreationally, Huffman stressed, is "foolish" and playing "Russian Roulette," and the head shop owners who are selling it know what they are doing. "They can read the newspapers, they can watch TV," said Huffman. "They know what's in it. And I think they're exploiting the young people who buy them." A representative of a head shop trade group told ABC News that the products should be regulated but not outlawed.

Huffman, who opposes prohibition in general, doubts that a ban on the substances will keep kids away from it. "We declared marijuana illegal in 1937. The federal government passed the law. Now, that really did a lot of good to keep people from smoking marijuana, didn't it?"

Huffman said that making all the JWH compounds illegal would probably have similar results, but emphasizes that any decision to legalize JWH compounds should hinge on a thorough study of how they affect humans. The DEA currently bans five cannabinoids, including JWH-018 and one other JWH chemical, but Congress is weighing a more sweeping ban.

Huffman does believes marijuana should be legalized, since its effects are known. "It should be sold only to people 21 and older. It should be heavily, heavily taxed."

One of the benefits of decriminalizing marijuana, he said, would be diminishing the allure of its more dangerous substitutes.

"I talked to a marijuana provider from California, a doctor, a physician," explained Huffman, "and he said that in California, that these things are not near the problem they are in the rest of the country simply because they can get marijuana. And marijuana, even for recreational use is quite easy to get in California, and it's essentially decriminalized. And marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as these compounds."

The trouble with trying to keep people from using drugs like Spice, said Huffman, is that "people are going to do what they're going to do," even if some kid is spending "$25 bucks on a bag of green stuff, and he doesn't know what's in it, and he doesn't know what it does."

"You can't tell a 17-year-old anything, because they consider that they're immortal."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar012011

K2 Crackdown: DEA Bans Fake Pot

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The sale of K2, a once-legal but potentially dangerous form of synthetic marijuana, is now banned nationwide.

The ban, proposed in November 2010 amid increasing reports of seizures, hallucinations, and dependency linked to the fake pot, was "necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It has now banned K2 and five chemicals used to make it.

K2 was sold openly in head shops and online as incense. It largely avoided regulation in the United States because it was sold in packages that stated it was not for human consumption.

Little is known about the long-term effects of the fake pot, also known as Spice, Demon, Genie, Zohai, and a host of other names. But its short-term effects, which include soaring heart rates and paranoia, have landed some of those who smoked it in the hospital. In some instances, the drug has been linked to suicide.

K2 was first developed by an undergraduate student in the lab of Clemson University chemist John Huffman. Its active ingredients are synthetic cannabinoids, chemicals that imitate the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. Huffman said the chemicals were designed as "research tools" and never intended for human consumption.

Three of the five banned chemicals -- JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200 -- bear Huffman's initials in their names. The other two are CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov252010

White House Applauds DEA Steps to Ban Synthetic Marijuana

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINTON) -- The White House has reacted to an effort by the DEA to temporarily ban synthetic marijuana products such as K2.

In a statement Wednesday, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, hailed DEA emergency actions against the drug, also known as “Spice.”

“I commend the DEA for using their emergency scheduling authority to protect public health by keeping these substances away from young people,” Kerlikowske said.  “Until the risks associated with ingesting these products and chemicals can be studied and understood, there is no place for them on the shelves of any legitimate business.”

The drug, an herbal and chemical product which is marketed as “incense,” is thought to mimic the effects of marijuana.
 
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio