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Entries in Spice (3)

Thursday
Jun282012

Texas Man Faces Animal Cruelty Charge for Eating Dog While High

McLennan County Sheriff's Department(WACO, Texas) -- A Texas man faces a felony charge after he allegedly bit, killed and ate a housemate's pet dog while high on the synthetic drug "spice."

The alleged attack is the latest in the series of violent and bizarre incidents linked to spice, which mimics the effects of marijuana, and bath salts, which mimics cocaine.

Michael Daniel, 22, allegedly smoked spice in his Waco, Texas, home before he assaulted his housemates and then ran out of the house into his yard, where he began crawling around on his hands and knees.  He barked and growled at a neighbor and chased him back into his home.

Daniel then allegedly took his housemate's dog, a medium-sized spaniel mix, out onto the house's porch.  He allegedly beat and strangled the dog, according to Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton, and then began chewing "hunks of flesh" from the animal.

Daniel's housemates called police and requested emergency assistance, saying Daniel was "going crazy."  Officers arrived at the house to find Daniel sitting on the porch with "blood and fur around his mouth" and with the dead dog lying in his lap, Swanton said.

Daniel, who police say told his housemates he was "on a bad trip" just before the alleged rampage on June 14, was charged on Monday with cruelty to a non-livestock animal.

The incident in Waco follows a series of bizarre attacks by people allegedly high on synthetic drugs, including a Glendale, Calif., man striking a 77-year-old woman with a shovel last week, and a man in Milton, Fla., biting into the hood of a police cruiser in February.

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 consumers to mimic the effects of marijuana and other drugs.

In a 20/20 investigation that aired in 2011, ABC News found that spice and bath salts were being sold to teenagers across the country with little to no oversight, and many of those young users were showing up at drug treatment centers.

"They think they're dying," Louisiana Poison Control Center Director Dr. Mark Ryan told ABC News.  "They have extreme paranoia.  They're having hallucinations.  They see things, they hear things, monsters, demons, aliens."

Since then, the government has fought to block the sale and usage of synthetic drugs.

Last December, the House of Representatives voted to add 41 chemical compounds used to make spice and bath salts to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to manufacture or dispense.

Last week, a similar bill passed the Senate that would criminalize 26 of those compounds, stripping off 15 of the 17 compounds that are used to make bath salts.

And according to authorities, manufacturers of synthetic drugs are constantly trying to develop new compounds that don't fall under the umbrella banned by state or federal law, making drugs particularly dangerous for users who don't know what they are going to get.

"When people use this, they may use it one time and the next time it's a totally different chemical substance," Swanton said.

According to Dr. Ryan, it's that lack of "quality control" that makes the drugs particularly risky, since 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 five mg, someone may buy the product around the corner and get 2,000 mg."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct212011

64 US Navy Sailors Discharged for Selling, Using Drugs

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Some of the sailors aboard the ship that buried al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at sea earlier this year have also been tossed overboard, career-wise.

According to Navy officials with the U.S. 3rd Fleet, as many as 64 sailors based in San Diego were recently busted for using or selling drugs.

The drug of choice seems to have been the herbal substance "spice," which gives users a marijuana-type high.  These "fake" pot drugs aren't legal and the Navy came down hard on the sailors, kicking some of the worst offenders out of the service.

While the sailors, all of whom received non-judicial punishment, were stationed on three vessels, 49 were from the USS Carl Vinson.  Last May, bin Laden's body was buried at sea from the deck of this ship after he was shot dead by Navy SEALs in Pakistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun062011

Taxpayer Money Created 'Legal Marijuana' Used by Teens

Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government might not be scrambling to ban "Spice," the "legal marijuana" that's sending teens to emergency rooms across the country, if it hadn't helped invent the drug in the first place.

As detailed in an ABC News 20/20 investigation, Spice, K2 and other substances in a new wave of legal designer drugs are widely available at convenience stores and suburban malls, though they've been responsible for more than 4,000 calls to the nation's poison control centers in the past year.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has placed an emergency ban on a handful of the chemicals that are used to make Spice, but there are hundreds more chemicals readily available – most of them designed by Clemson University scientist John W. Huffman using a grant from the government's National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Over the course of a decade, Huffman created nearly 500 "cannabinoids" that affect the brain in a much more powerful way than THC, the active component in marijuana. About five years ago, entrepreneurs began spraying the chemicals he invented on plant matter to create "legal marijuana."

"I figured that somewhere along the line, some enterprising individual would try to smoke it," Huffman told ABC News in a recent interview. But, said Huffman, given the dangers of the chemicals, anybody who smokes them "is incredibly foolish."

"They're playing Russian roulette," he said. "I mean, it's just like taking a pistol with one bullet in it and spinning the chamber and holding it to your head and pulling the trigger."

Huffman first obtained the NIDA grant in 1984, which ultimately totaled $2,564,000, when the government asked him to synthesize the human metabolite of THC.

In the 1990s, NIDA asked him to switch gears and either develop medicine or study the "cannabinoid receptors" in the brain, which respond to marijuana.

Huffman and coworkers began creating a family of cannabinoid chemicals in his laboratory, all of them identified with his initials and a number.

In the summer of 1994, one of the undergraduate students working in his lab created JWH-018, a strong cannabinoid that is easy to make and is now the "JWH" chemical most likely to be found in Spice and other similar products.

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

In 2005, Huffman published a paper that included detailed synthetic procedure for making all of the compounds in the JWH class. By then, there were 465.

Within a year, JWH-018 and related substances were being used as recreational drugs in Europe.

"I assume that somebody picked our papers, and saw a way to make some money," said Huffman.

In the past year alone there have been 4,000 calls into poison control centers relating to the drugs. Side effects include heart rate stimulation, blood pressure elevation, anxiety, and hallucinations. "Beyond the acute effects [there] are psychiatric effects that have led individuals to harm themselves, sometimes fatally, and exhibit extreme paranoia and delusions not unlike schizophrenia or other psychoses," said Anthony Scalzo, director of the Missouri Poison Control Center.

The DEA put an emergency ban on the sale of JWH-018 and one other JWH chemical in March, along with three other chemicals commonly found in Spice.

The irony that the government funded the chemicals now being examined by the DEA has not eluded lobbyists for retail stores who sell the Spice and K2.

"The vast majority of these chemicals were created with government financial support," said Dan Francis, executive director of the Retail Compliance Association, a coalition of head shops who sell the products.

"It's a three- to five-billion-dollar industry," said Francis, who says that Spice products should be regulated but not outlawed.

Huffman says he has his own doubts that prohibition would work, but emphasizes that the people who are selling Spice already know it's bad for humans, based on anecdotal evidence, even if no scientific research has been completed. "The physiological effects of these compounds have never been examined in humans," said Huffman. "There have been a number of cases of people who've committed suicide after using them."

DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs says the agency has to gather enough research on any specific chemical before any substance is controlled. The five chemicals that are now banned are those that the agency found most often in Spice products.

"We're going to continue to look at other chemicals that are out there that are being sold in an effort to circumvent the control of those five substances," said Boggs.

Sen. Check Grassley, R.-Iowa, has proposed legislation that would ban all the JWH chemicals so that Spice makers can't simply switch recipes.

Huffman said that despite the unintended use of his chemicals that have had devastating effects on teens, he is proud of his research, which could potentially lead to the development of new medicines.

"If somebody wants to misuse it, it is the responsibility of the people who misuse it to take responsibility for their own actions," said Huffman, who retired from Clemson in 2010.

A NIDA spokesperson defended the agency's funding for Huffman's research, saying that studying "artificial variations of brain chemicals...has yielded major research and clinical advances."

Research into cannabinoids, said the spokesperson, "has the potential to usher in the next generation of pain medications," as well as possible treatments for obesity and multiple sclerosis.

"The scientific record demonstrates that the cost of discontinuing the pursuit of potentially life-saving medications, because such compounds could be illegally diverted and abused, would be unacceptably high."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio