Synthetic drug challenges health and laws

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Synthetic marijuana has similar effects to marijuana.

By Kevin W. Pang

Synthetic marijuana is the second most used drug by high school seniors according to the DEA and National Institute on Drug Abuse survey of high school seniors in 2011.

Music business sophomore Jesus Interiano, said, “They are too afraid to break the law … if they can’t experience the real thing they want to try something that can get them close to it. It gives them some added comfort knowing that this stuff is known to allegedly give the same effect; it’s legal and that’s what appeals to them.”

Interiano is a part of Peer Educators, they offer counseling on drug and alcohol abuse, STD and HIV health, domestic violence and depression for faculty and students at this college.

Synthetic marijuana is popular among teens and young adults as an alternative to marijuana.

The substance elicits a “high” similar to marijuana but is not subject to legal punishment.

Elevated mood, relaxation and altered perception are some of the effects the drugs have on the body, according to NIDA. Some users report psychotic effects, such as extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.

The drug can cause heart attacks in some users, NIDA’s website stated.

Rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation and confusion are symptoms reported among users. Some have experienced raised blood pressure and caused reduced blood supply to the heart, known as myocardial ischemia.

Spice and K2 are common names for synthetic marijuana.

The drug is commonly purchased in head shops, tobacco shops or over the Internet.

The drug is a mixture of herbs and spices that are sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Smoking synthetic marijuana is the primary method in the intake of the drug.

Regular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms NIDA states.

According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, there is an acute kidney injury directly linked with the use of synthetic marijuana.

Interiano said users of synthetic marijuana say they have experienced severe chest pains, dizziness and nausea.

Users of the drug experience the symptoms after about a month of using.

“Most of them having to deal with their breathing and their lung function, so many of them quit after a short period of time; they don’t want to expose themselves to that much danger,” Interiano said.

On March 1, 2011, the DEA released a final order to schedule authority to temporarily control the synthetic chemicals.

Five chemicals that are currently controlled are JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47 497 and cannabicyclohexanol.

The United States Food and Drug Administration have not approved these chemicals for human consumption and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.

Brands such as Spice, K2, Blaze and Red X Dawn have been labeled as incense to hide the intended illicit use.

Manufacturers of synthetic marijuana change the chemical formula of the drug so it can remain legal for sales.

According to the DEA the effect of the Controlled Substances Act is to regulate and penalize manufactures, distributors and people in possession.

The drug has now been classified as a Schedule I substance which is a category of drugs not considered legitimate for medical use by the DEA; other Schedule I substances are marijuana.


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