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More Synthetic Weed is Hitting the Streets and It's Getting More Lethal Every Day
In city after city, town after town, there’s a relatively new player in the illicit and dangerous drug game.
Called K2 or Spice, it’s a man-made version of marijuana – shredded plant material sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids and rolled into joints or made into candies.
Part of the problem is that these synthetic versions are not just chemically equivalent, but far more powerful – as much as 100 times more, than the natural cannabinoids found in marijuana plants.
Cannabinoids are the chemical family comprising the primary psychoactive ingredients in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short.
Making the problem worse are the ever-changing formulas, constantly being tweaked to evade the law. Today’s K2 is potentially so different from yesterday’s version that its effects are completely unpredictable. There’s no way to know if it’s going to be seriously toxic, even life-threateningly toxic, until it’s too late.
Far greater side effects than natural weed
“K2” and “Spice” are the two earliest nicknames, and the ones you hear most often. There are a dozen or more other street names which change almost as often as the chemical formulas.
What isn’t changing, say health care and law enforcement, are the ever-present and brutally dangerous side effects that synthetic designer drugs pose for the growing legions of young – and many not-so-young – users across the country.
Synthetic cannabinoids, or ‘syncanns,’ are super-powerful versions of THC.
According to various sources, even low doses of today’s syncanns cause far greater mayhem on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors than natural THC.
This translates into greater side effects far beyond the euphoria – anxiety, paranoia, various psychoses and dangerous seizures. There have been reports of kidney damage, cardiac arrhythmias, even heart attacks and deaths. And while all that’s going on, the drug can be seriously addictive.
News stories are increasingly common about people being rushed to emergency care centers after using K2. Recently n New York, for example, 130 people were hospitalized in one afternoon following the release into a Brooklyn neighborhood of a new batch of K2. New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reported 8,000 hospitalizations since January 2015, directly related to synthetic cannabinoids. The story has been repeated in most major cities across the country.
Toxic contaminants and added drugs
In New York, the recent spate of hospitalizations came as a surprise after syncann-associated hospitalizations had dropped significantly since the summer of 2015.
A recent Forbes article pointed out that the resurgence of K2 casualties was likely tied to “newly introduced chemicals or a batch of unusually potent mixtures.”
Toxic contamination from poorly controlled manufacturing processes is also a suspect. Law enforcement seizures at K2 manufacturing sites have discovered that construction-site type cement mixers are being used to mix the synthetic cannabinoid products.
“One might suspect that this mixing may not always be done under the Good Manufacturing Practices associated with regulated foods, drugs and other chemicals,” reporter David Kroll wryly observed.
And now there are cases popping up where other psychoactive chemicals have been found in synthetic herbal products, “including highly potent opioid relatives of fentanyl as well as benzodiazepines,” Forbes stated.
Lawmakers fight back
With each appearance of a new K2 version, law enforcement has been adding the chemical makeup to its constantly growing list of illegal drugs. But this “progressive prohibition of chemical after chemical found in synthetic weed products,” Forbes reports, has had little deterrent effect on the local and internet K2 retailers.
With each ruling on a new chemical version, another version appears on the streets that skirts the earlier regulation. Hundreds of neighborhood delis, convenience stores and bodegas sell the foil-wrapped drugs, feeling legally protected as long as that particular K2 version hasn’t been ruled illegal yet.
However, New York’s Governor Cuomo has introduced a brilliant idea that might make a difference with neighborhood stores in New York State. According to WCBS-TV, Cuomo says that stores in New York caught selling K2 or other synthetic marijuana products will have their licenses to sell liquor and state lottery tickets revoked.
After K2 was found being peddled at convenience stores in up-state Rochester, NY, Cuomo issued warnings to law enforcement across the state to be on the lookout for K2 and inspect every possible retail source.
Store owners everywhere “will be put out of business if they are caught selling these drugs,” the governor said.
Cuomo added an appeal to citizens to be wary of K2. “If you know someone who is playing with this drug, and you care about them at all, do everything you can to stop them. Because this really is dangerous and could be a fatal mistake,” the governor said.
Synthetic weed is addictive
The internet is loaded with personal horror stories of addiction to synthetic weed. And K2 isn’t that recent a phenomenon. One former addict who started a website to help others trapped by K2 has been mixed up in the drug for over 6 years.
He writes about his “battle” with K2, and says: “Over the last 6 years, I have personally witnessed the drug ‘Spice’ – also called synthetic marijuana, synthetic weed, herbal incense, herbal potpourri, K2, fake weed, synthetic pot, noids, synth and fweed – go from relative obscurity to being sold at newspaper stands, head shops, online stores and convenience stores all around the world. I have also seen it affect thousands of lives, including mine.”
He cautions readers and offers advice for breaking free from K2, or Spice, addiction.
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