Designer Drugs: Synthetic Marijuana
An emerging trend in the drug world is the use synthetic cannabinoids or synthetic marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are psychoactive substances that are chemically similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) and are applied to plant material. While synthetic cannabinoids are chemically similar to THC, it does not mean that these substances will necessarily have the same or similar effects as marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are derived from lab synthesized liquid chemicals which can have adverse and/or unexpected effects on its users: "Little is known of the pharmacological profile of the chemicals or their by-products." (1) Furthermore, these products may also contain other undisclosed toxic chemicals.
Like marijuana, smoking is the primary method of consumption. Synthetic cannabinoids are often packaged and sold as potpourri or incense and labeled "not for human consumption." These products go by many names: Spice, K2, Scooby Snacks, Genie, Yucatan Fire, Blaze, Red X Dawn, Zohia, Spike Diamond and Citron among others.
Use of synthetic cannabinoids has been associated with impaired driving, attempted suicides and emergency department visits. Potential adverse effects include anxiety, nausea, hallucinations, delusions, vomiting, agitation, seizures, profuse sweating, confusion, panic attacks, heart palpitations, aggression, mood swings and paranoia. Additionally, "Spice [popular synthetic cannabinoid] can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart (myocardial ischemia), and in a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks."(2)
If the health risks alone are not enough to deter use, synthetic marijuana is also illegal. The possession and/or sale of synthetic cannabinoids is illegal in Wisconsin as defined under WI State Statutes, 941.315(2)(b) and 961.14(4)(tb). Additionally, City of Madison ordinance 25.31(5)(a), also prohibits possession/sale of synthetic cannabinoids to include a fine of $1006.
In short, synthetic cannabinoids are dangerous drugs with legal and health ramifications. Should you see products similar to those described above please do not hesitate to contact your local district police station.
Sgt Alex Berkovitz
Central Community Policing Team