Variety is the Spice of Life. Or is It? The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

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On July 11, 2014, 19-year-old Connor Eckhardt decided to try synthetic pot. The cause of his momentary lapse of judgment is debatable. Peer pressure? Dangerously enticing marketing strategies of synthetic drug manufacturers? The outcome, however, was both inarguable and irreversible. After just one hit of this chemically altered plant material, more commonly known as “Spice,” Eckhardt slipped into a coma from which he would never awake.

This tragic story is one of many that have arisen from the issue of synthetic drugs. Trendy names, ever-changing chemical structures, and colorful packaging have made synthetic marijuana a drug of choice (and a death sentence) for far too many. Teens are the target demographic for manufacturers, who market their products as “plant food” or “herbal incense.” These cheap, eye-catching sachets are known not for their advertised abilities, but for their potency. Due to their unique chemical structures, synthetic drugs are not recognized by traditional drug screens. Manufacturers attempt to evade the evolution of laws and regulations by altering the chemical makeup of their products. This is why there are so many different variations of Spice, also called “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “K2,” and “Scooby Snax.” The grinning maw of a mystery-solving mutt on the package lends intrigue to the experience of the younger demographic while managing to dissuade the suspicion of officials.

What is Spice?

Spice is a type of Synthetic Cannabinoid similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC,” the active ingredient in marijuana. Side effects include severe anxiety, nausea, elevated blood pressure, and hallucinations. This slew of harmful consequences is made possible by the ingredient list, which changes as manufacturers adapt as laws change and bans are placed on specific formulations of their product. Some varieties of Spice can be two to five hundred times more potent than traditional marijuana (Allegheny County, MD Health Department), and few people know exactly what goes into them. It is the ever-evolving process of their creation that makes this drug so dangerous.

“The one overriding message on these things is that you don’t know what you’re getting,” said Barbara Carreno, spokesperson of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This was her response to hearing that over three hundred U.S. citizens were admitted to the emergency room after using Spice in April of 2015. This shocking number accounts for the widespread problem that is Spice. It is easily accessible, deceivingly packaged, and innocently advertised, leaving customers to assume it will get them high rather than cause their death. However, it is important to stay aware of the dangers of using Spice, or any other drug. If a friend or family member becomes involved with drug abuse, it is recommended that they seek immediate treatment if not long-term rehabilitation.

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