Entries in Synthetic Marijuana (6)


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


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


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


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


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


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