Synthetic Marijuana Emergencies On The Rise

Synthetic marijuana emergencies are on the rise throughout the United States. Although the substance is banned by federal law, providers continue to sell, and consumers continue to use, the dangerous product.

Although it is labeled as incense, and carries the warning “not for human consumption,” the product is meant to be smoked like marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana, which is commonly called “Spice,” does not contain Marijuana or THC. However, the herbal mixture is treated with chemicals designed to cause psychoactive effects.

Although it causes psychoactive effects, synthetic marijuana was legal and widely available throughout the United States until 2012. As reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Spice was originally available for purchase online, in “head” shops, and at convenience stores.

The unusual product appealed to consumers who sought a legal, but powerful, high. Unfortunately, as the product is not regulated, users have experienced a variety of dangerous side-effects.

Health officials report agitation, confusion, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, and vomiting are the most commonly reported symptoms. However, some users have experienced dangerous, and fatal, damage to the heart.

As the number of synthetic marijuana emergencies continued to rise, the chemical components were deemed Schedule I controlled substances. In 2012, the sale, possession, and use of Spice was banned by federal law. Unfortunately, synthetic marijuana cannabis remains a serious concern.

Between April 10 and April 18, more than 160 New York residents reported to emergency rooms with synthetic marijuana emergencies. The startling number of cases prompted officials to declare a public health alert.

Acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Spice is specifically dangerous, as “the exact compounds contained in synthetic cannabinoid products change so frequently.” Therefore, the compounds are not regulated and the negative impact is largely unknown.

The Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed an estimated 98 residents experienced synthetic cannabis emergencies during the month of March. The Mississippi Department of Health reported at least 97 synthetic marijuana emergencies in the last two weeks.

Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez Sanchez, with the New York Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, said Spice is specifically dangerous as it “can have significant, long-term effects on the brain.” However, users may not fully understand the danger.

“Young people may be fooled into thinking that these substances are safe because they are sold over the counter or are in colorful packaging, but they are not made for human consumption.”

Interestingly, synthetic marijuana emergencies outnumber those caused by the drug it was designed to emulate. Whereas the active ingredient in Spice is a chemical compound, THC is naturally occurring in marijuana plants.

[Image via Shutterstock]