Another synthetic drug is rampaging through India and taking lives with it. Alarmingly, the drug is disguised as a harmless — and often legal — marijuana alternative. Yet as innocent as the name may sound, spice is far from safe.
Alarming Increase in Hospitalizations and Death Caused by Spice Drug
Back in April 2015 police responded to a call that landed three boys in the hospital and one 18 year old high school senior dead after smoking spice. Another 19 year old boy recently fell into a coma after smoking spice and died a few days later. A mother reported her two sons were hospitalized after using the drug and one may have permanent kidney damage — a lifelong side effect that synthetic drugs can cause.
The parents of all the above cases are now advocating to spread awareness about the dangerous and deadly nature of synthetic cannabis. In their grief they state that their children were unaware that they were experimenting with such a dangerous drug. In the first five months of 2015 there were 15 deaths due to spice drug abuse. This is three times as many as were recorded in 2014.
In 2010, there were over 11,000 ER visits due to spice, and while no official total has been published since, many health officials across the globe have issued warnings about increased hospitalizations due to the drug this year. While it is now clear that the drug can cause toxicity and death in its own right, its use can also lead to severe psychosis and has been implicated in a number of deaths by suicide.
What is ‘Spice’?
'Spice' was originally one of many brand names of a synthetic cannabis product. By 2006 spice became the generic street name for all fake marijuana. Like many other synthetic drugs, spice was first legal and sold via the internet, pubs etc. as either an herbal smoking substitute or incense. The spice drug looks like potpourri and is often sold as such with the label 'not for human consumption.' Consumers, however, learned through the grape vine that spice was in fact meant to be smoked to produce a high similar to marijuana.
The story is similar to that of another dangerous drug, bath salts, which was originally sold legally and labelled 'not for human consumption,' but ended up causing cases of drug abuse, bizarre and psychotic behaviour and death. After bath salts, flakka joined the wave of dangerous and deadly synthetic drugs. With spice, the newest synthetic drug causing alarm, people first thought that what they were getting was a harmless mix of herbs with effects similar to that of marijuana. However, analysts found that the spice drug is actually plant material sprayed with various chemical concoctions of man made synthetic cannabinoids. They also found that many packages contained little or none of the harmless herbs that websites advertised.
Synthetic cannabinoids are meant to mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They are far from natural and the chemicals used can vary widely so consumers do not know exactly what they are getting, and the effects can actually be more potent than that of marijuana. The chemicals, like those of other synthetic drugs, are often made in labs and then sold over the internet. While many of the most common synthetic cannabinoids have now been outlawed, labs are always one step ahead of the law tweaking the compound to create a new drug that will not be detected. The fact that there is no one spice drug, but rather a range of chemicals whose effects have not been tested on humans, makes the drug particularly dangerous. Most experts agree that synthetic marijuana is more dangerous than the real thing. However the public, especially teens and young adults with whom the drug is most popular, is often unaware of the real dangers this drug poses.
The Dangers of Spice Drug Use
The marketing of spice as a harmless natural herb that promises the high of marijuana, without the legal consequences such as a failed drug test, makes it seem like a safe alternative to other drugs. However, in reality, the spice drug is an unlabelled, untested, and unpredictable mix of chemicals that can have devastating consequences and severe side effects.
Spice drug use does produce some feelings of euphoria similar to that of marijuana, but spice drug effects can also induce a wide range of negative reactions including hallucinations, unhealthy heart rates, nausea and vomiting, confusion, extreme paranoia and anxiety, and even death. Because the chemical compounds are constantly changing, when someone presents with symptoms in the emergency room doctors may have a difficult time testing for the drug and knowing what to do to help. As it is still relatively new, there is no research on the long term effects of spice drug use on the brain and body. However, one can assume that with severe short term effects that lead to hospitalizations and death, long-term effects of spice drug use would be detrimental.
Help for Those Struggling with Spice Abuse or Addiction
Synthetic cannabis, or spice, is not simply “fake marijuana” made up of harmless herbs. It is a dangerous, addictive and deadly drug. Use of this drug can also lead to all the social, physical and mental health problems that accompany drug addiction. It is important that parents speak to their children about the drug and inform them of the dangers. If someone you know is currently suffering from addiction to synthetic cannabis or any other type of drug, contact an addiction specialist today to help you determine which type of addiction treatment centre is right for you and get on the road to addiction recovery.
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