Most of us who are not drug-users, former drug-users, police officers, drug counselors or the like, do not necessarily know the vocabulary for each new street drug that comes along.
Not that we should have to learn everything about all those new drugs, but it would sure be worthwhile for us to pay attention to the news or the crime watch shows when they highlight one or another of those drugs (new or resurfaced and renamed) that seem to appeal to the teenage set (or those even younger; and I suppose it wouldn’t exclude those who are old enough to supposedly know better).
The really sad truth behind any drug story is the many lives that are taken because of the users’ ignorance. But, if we — as an educated caring person — could educate just one child or teenager about things their friends do not know about these “great new synthetic drugs” (in this case, synthetic cannabinoids, imitation marijuana or fake weed) sold under assorted names such as Relaxin or Potpourri, Spice, K-2, or Scooby Snax and many others, often packaged with happy faces and colorful, playful designs on the label to make it look appealing and not in any way dangerous — unless, of course, you read the label where it says “not for human consumption,” maybe we could save a life.
Some of the packages say it is to be used as incense, and some of the other labels sport “dark” and sinister-looking images, using illustrations of some concept of the devil or suggestive of black magik. But for those who are simply looking for some kind of “legal pot,” the proprietor of the establishment selling it will likely assure customers that it is both legal and safe, and users will achieve the same highs as can be expected with the real thing.
Marketing in this country (perhaps in any country) can be quite deliberately misleading — deceiving. Marketing, of course, is the means to the process of procuring profit. No marketing, no profit, so why bother with the product in the first place if not to make money selling it?
Just imagine if nobody bought the product because the marketing department did such a poor job of making it desirable? But marketers are not that careless. Especially those who are selling poison, things that do not work as suggested, or things they can only keep selling until closed down by law.
In the case of Spice, one of the names for the imitation marijuana on the market today, it has never been about quality, or safety, although it may teeter on the fence about legality, staying one step ahead of the latest banned ingredients to enable the producers to stay in business.
Because this is such an important subject and truly is a matter of life and death, I feel that what people need to know about it should come from those who suffered from its use. But first, a few little points to set it up.
—Many people think it’s not only okay to use because it’s synthetic, but they believe it’s safer, cheaper and legal. Well, cheaper depends on how much you use and who you buy it from, but okay; legal depends on where you buy it and use it; but safer — across the board — absolutely not!
—Because it can be deadly, and quickly in certain cases, they need field tests to help determine if someone has taken the drug in order to save their lives BEFORE they get to a hospital.
—According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, “Spice” is made with dried herbs and spices that are sprayed with chemicals that induce a marijuana-type of high when smoked. BUT BECAUSE THE DRUG IS NOT TESTED FOR SAFETY, THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW WHAT CHEMICALS ARE BEING USED.
—Some of the health effects from using this fake weed can include severe agitation and anxiety; fast, racing heartbeat and high blood pressure; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors; intense and psychotic episodes; and suicidal and other harmful thoughts and/or actions.
—Some users DO die after taking just one hit from this untested and unpredictable synthetic drug.
The products are widely available, despite laws prohibiting them. With the passing of each regulation to control synthetic marijuana, drug manufacturers and suppliers are quickly changing the ingredients to new, non-controlled variations.
Of course many of those who learn about this synthetic pot will try to buy it locally or online, and it is widely and easily available there, and the post office delivers it right to their home. I can understand why many teens would want to try it in spite of the dire warnings because often the government, and others in a position of authority over young people not on their own, lie to them to keep them from doing what they don’t want them to do — ostensibly to keep them safe, but often because the government and/or the adults really don’t know the facts (which is often quite evident) and the kids think they do.
But just as the best person to tell kids why not to get involved with heroin or cocaine is someone who did, and suffered the consequences — from anything like losing their job, their friends, their family, to practically losing their life, to ending up in jail — the best person to tell about the dangers and risks of using Spice (by any other name) is a former user or a family member of one who tried it and had dire consequences.
Rachel Stiles/September 4, 2015 at 10:26 am —I am seeing the effects of this synthetic marijuana stuff before my eyes. I have a 26 year old daughter who is addicted. Last night I found her outside at 4 am smoking it. It leaves her rather useless… almost catatonic. It does have an effect. It is much more than media hype. And while I know it is possible to be addicted to anything — this stuff has got to be stopped. No one knows what chemicals are being put in this stuff. That is how these people are getting around manufacturing it and selling it. So — it’s not just teens. It’s not just media hype. I hope she will be fine. I hope she will be fine for her 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son. And her unborn child in her womb. Praying I can get her into rehab or therapy today. This stuff is serious. This stuff is real. This stuff needs to be stopped. Jenny/September 15, 2015 at 9:50 pm —I have a 17 year-old daughter who has been hospitalized for several days now, transferred to a big city hospital, due to kidney failure caused by this stuff. Still don’t know for sure if she’s going to make it! This stuff is bad in so many ways!
She has also experienced the psychosis end of the symptoms caused by this drug. This is not the daughter I know!
Ryan/December 30, 2015 at 7:45 pm —Are you stupid or brain damaged from the spice???!! The manufacturers change the chemicals all the time!! That stuff is extremely unpredictable and can be different from batch to batch. #liveabovetheinfluence Seen on Crime Watch Daily recently, a young man named Connor was in a coma, in his hospital bed, following his first-time use of this synthetic drug. His parents did not know it was something they had to
warn him about. His friend, Devin, who obviously didn’t know it could kill, suggested they go to the local smoke shop and “get something.”
That night they smoked a product that looks a lot like marijuana — but the dried herbal leaves are laced with toxic chemicals, which is what makes this synthetic product “work.”
They could buy it because they were at least 18. Little did they know that your first hit could be your last, as it was for Connor.
“We had never heard of ‘legal highs,’ never heard of Spice or K2, and we were not parents that had our heads in the sand,” said Connor’s mother, Veronica. “People think ‘My child would never do this.’ I would have for sure told you that my son would never do this — and I was wrong.”
“He had one puff, one hit, and right away he didn’t feel well,” said his friend, Devin.
Connor went to sleep and never woke up. His so-called friend didn’t call for help until 11 hours later. And by then it was too late to save him.
“His brain had swelled, the oxygen supply to his brain had been cut off for too long,” said Devin. “Ultimately he was pronounced brain-dead.”
“It’s like any illegal drug: You’re at the mercy of the person that mixed it,” said one drug agent. “People don’t know what they’re taking.” But we do know they are taking a huge risk with their lives.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.