Synthetic Marijuana

As if artificial sugar, artificial turf and artificial friends weren’t enough, we now have to worry about our kids and artificial marijuana. This intriguing and very dangerous drug which, until recently, was legally sold in gas stations and convenience stores, has been highlighted on the news of late. Doctors are trying to get the word out in an effort to increase awareness. This is me doing my part. In addition to being scary stuff, I am shocked by the ease with which kids can stumble upon it. When I was their age, if you wanted to do drugs, you had to do it the hard way … grow it in a planter on your fire escape.

1. Fake pot, or synthetic cannabinoids, were, until recently, sold over the counter legally as incense in little foil packets — probably right next to the rolling papers. Marketed under different names including Spice, K2, Mr. Nice Guy and Skunk, (with a name like Skunk, one wonders why it took so long to recognize that manufacturers aren’t selling it for it’s olfactory pleasantness) the labels clearly state “Not For Consumption.”

2. The active ingredients in these “incenses” mimic the effects of marijuana. As an added bonus, users often need to smoke less for a similar or heightened high than that they get from pot. The additional chemicals used are unregulated, unclear and unsafe.

3. Many reports indicate a rise in the use of synthetic pot — no surprise if you read #2. You were a kid once — doesn’t less for more spark your curiosity? One survey revealed 11% of high school seniors have tried it.

4. ER doctors are reporting a rise in the number of visits from synthetic pot use. It is difficult for them to initially sort out the symptoms because, unlike most known drugs, there is no urine or blood test for it. Diagnosis and treatment rely heavily on the experience and savvy of the physician — and, the honesty of the patient. Symptoms include racing heart beats, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, panic attacks and seizure. There have been reports of patients with temporary paralysis and scorched lungs. It has been linked with suicide and murder, likely from the concurring paranoia. Even Bob Marley would be appalled.

5. Many of the ingredients in these products have been banned, but clever manufacturers are able to find ways around this. By changing the formulation, the packaging and/or the name, the law can be skirted. Synthetic marijuana is a drug, whose day it seems, has come.

This is not the pot of your hippie days. It is not the feel good, eat brownies and sleep it off kind of weed. That isn’t good for you either, but while that one may make you laugh, this one should frighten you. While it is almost impossible to overdose on marijuana, it is easy to overdose on this fake stuff. I fear, despite the bans, it will become easier to purchase. Warn your kids but, more importantly, be very aware. Teenagers, as a group, will always be really, really poor decision makers and really, really good liars. The last thing they need is “fake drugs” to further confuse their developing brains.

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