LRHS students hear about ‘fake weed’ dangers

Background: "Spice" Synthetic marijuana was created in a laboratory as early as 1979, but it was not until the late 1990s that it became available to the public in the form of potpourri or incense. A company in the United Kingdom first packaged the product under the names of K-2 and Spice.  More than a decade later, this potpourri product has surfaced as a drug abuse issue in the United States.   Earlier, the fallout in the European market was an alarming number of reports of negative side effects that included chemical dependency, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, strokes and even swelling of the brain, wrote Melissa McClain, author of “The Spice Drug: A Dangerous Drug.” Therefore, scientists in Europe embarked on more research, and those results led to bans on this particular designer drug in many countries. “As this drug is still legal in the U.S., many people may be led to believe that it is a safe alternative to marijuana,” McClain wrote.  Initially, the people who used the product were military personnel seeking an alternative to marijuana that could not be detected by standard drug tests, the article said. Another sector of the population has been attracted to the product: High school students and young adults.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana. (They are more popular among boys than girls — in 2012, nearly twice as many male 12th graders reported past-year use of synthetic marijuana as females in the same age group.) Easy access and the misperception that Spice products are ‘natural’ and therefore harmless have likely contributed to their popularity.” While banning the sale of the product is usually good protocol, it seems manufactures are one step ahead, according to the book Mind Hacks: Tips and Tools for Using Your Brain by authors Tom Stafford and Matt Webb. “Forensic Science International recently published an eye-opening study on a new generation of synthetic cannabinoids that have become popular as ‘legal highs,’ provided by a highly-organized neuroscience-savvy industry that is ready and waiting with new compounds before the law changes,” according to Mind Hacks. “Our analysis demonstrated that just four weeks after the prohibition took effect a multitude of second generation products were flooding the market. The speed of introduction of new products and the use of JWH-073 as a substitute for JWH-018 not only showed that the producers are well aware of the legal frameworks, but that they likely anticipated the prohibition and already had an array of replacement products on hand,” the book said.

Background: "Spice"
Synthetic marijuana was created in a laboratory as early as 1979, but it was not until the late 1990s that it became available to the public in the form of potpourri or incense. A company in the United Kingdom first packaged the product under the names of K-2 and Spice.
More than a decade later, this potpourri product has surfaced as a drug abuse issue in the United States.
Earlier, the fallout in the European market was an alarming number of reports of negative side effects that included chemical dependency, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, strokes and even swelling of the brain, wrote Melissa McClain, author of “The Spice Drug: A Dangerous Drug.” Therefore, scientists in Europe embarked on more research, and those results led to bans on this particular designer drug in many countries.
“As this drug is still legal in the U.S., many people may be led to believe that it is a safe alternative to marijuana,” McClain wrote.
Initially, the people who used the product were military personnel seeking an alternative to marijuana that could not be detected by standard drug tests, the article said. Another sector of the population has been attracted to the product: High school students and young adults.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana. (They are more popular among boys than girls — in 2012, nearly twice as many male 12th graders reported past-year use of synthetic marijuana as females in the same age group.) Easy access and the misperception that Spice products are ‘natural’ and therefore harmless have likely contributed to their popularity.”
While banning the sale of the product is usually good protocol, it seems manufactures are one step ahead, according to the book Mind Hacks: Tips and Tools for Using Your Brain by authors Tom Stafford and Matt Webb.
“Forensic Science International recently published an eye-opening study on a new generation of synthetic cannabinoids that have become popular as ‘legal highs,’ provided by a highly-organized neuroscience-savvy industry that is ready and waiting with new compounds before the law changes,” according to Mind Hacks.
“Our analysis demonstrated that just four weeks after the prohibition took effect a multitude of second generation products were flooding the market. The speed of introduction of new products and the use of JWH-073 as a substitute for JWH-018 not only showed that the producers are well aware of the legal frameworks, but that they likely anticipated the prohibition and already had an array of replacement products on hand,” the book said.

By Dawn De Busk and Wayne Rivet

Staff Writers

NAPLES – “Spice” is hardly nice.

In fact, the so-called “fake weed” is potentially toxic, yet has become a “designer drug” and “fad” amongst teenagers.

Spice, also known as K-2, is being sold as a herbal incense. Although a warning — “not for human consumption” — is tacked to each label, the synthetic material produces two to five times the “high” as marijuana, yet in some cases, has been deadly.

When Lake Region High School’s nurse heard stories about teens using Spice, she spoke with Trident Academy students to research usage amongst teens, as well as develop an awareness program.

On Monday, student leaders Sarah Paul, Nicole Ferguson and Hunter Banks joined Maine State Trooper Steven Green to “give the facts” regarding Spice.

Trooper Green, who has served as a liaison officer for SAD 61, told LRHS students that many teens are trying Spice with “no idea what the implications may be.”

“We really don’t know that much about it,” Trooper Green admitted. “We do know, however, that it is dangerous.”

Trooper Green said in 2011 Maine’s Poison Control received 41 calls from hospital personnel regarding patients who had entered emergency rooms complaining of a variety of symptoms after smoking Spice. Those symptoms included paranoia, hallucinations, elevated heart rate, respiratory issues, vomiting, numbness, pale skin and agitation. The number of calls increased to 55 in 2012.

Although Spice is legal to possess, Trooper Green says law enforcement is taking a much closer look at the incense and suspects some type of regulation will be enacted in the near future.

Recently, Trooper Green purchased a packet of “Spice” from an area store. He initially placed the packet between a visor in his cruiser, but the odor was so bad that he placed it in the trunk. The packet was sent to the state’s crime lab for analysis. In most cases, “Spice” is sold in “head shops,” and costs about $8 to $10 per packets — more expensive than the cost of marijuana, officials say.

Trident Academy leader Hunter Banks revealed the results of a survey of 317 students. Eight percent of the respondents claimed they had used “Spice.”

Possession of “Spice” on SAD 61 property is a violation of district policy.

To drive home the dangers of “Spice,” Trooper Green and workshop leaders played a video from the “Dr. Phil Show.” A mother was introduced to the studio audience. She told them she was there that day with her son. The camera then panned to an urn placed on an end table next to the woman. Her son, Stephen, had died from smoking “Spice.”

Parent voices her concern

One parent feels disgusted that a local store is making readily available a packaged potpourri that is being smoked by young people.

In fact, that parent is so upset about the sale of this synthetic marijuana that she would like to picket against the business. Scientific studies and news reports indicate that the substance is highly addictive and occasionally deadly, she said.

The parent has confronted personnel at the store only to be told it is perfectly legal to sell the item. Also, the parent was told customers are carded; and no one under 18 years old is allowed to purchase the item.

Additionally, the parent was informed that the store’s owner has no intention of discontinuing the product because it is legal in the United States, and the store sells approximately $1,000 worth of the incense daily.

After a Portland-based television news station aired a story on “Spice,” employees at the convenience store told the parent the item would be placed in a less visible spot “until this all blows over.”

However a week later, the “designer drug” was back on the top two shelves of a glass display case near the cash register.

The product is being sold under names such as California Chronic, Dank, Rastafarian and Demon Bliss to name a few.

“It is being marketed as a substance that is friendly to our kids. But, it is not,” said a community member who wished to remain anonymous. “These people at (this store), they need to be held responsible. If they didn’t make it available, it wouldn’t end up in the hands of our children. I don’t want to bury any children from this community. I don’t want to visit them at a nursing home or a hospital.”

She added, “It can happen the first time they smoke it. This is synthetic marijuana.  It can cause permanent damage. It’s horrible what it does. It shouldn’t be a legal option. She said profit to a business should not outweigh residents’ safety.

The concerned resident has been posting on Facebook stories of misuse of the potpourri. So far, those stories take place in other states in America; and she would like to see the product pulled before it takes the life of anyone in Maine.

This store in the area “is nothing more than a head shop. They sell one-hit bongs and pipes. We don’t need that in our community. As a community, we need to take care of our youth. In almost any store, people can buy papers that are intended to roll tobacco. I wouldn’t care if those were banned – whatever we need to do to keep our kids safe,” she said.

The store’s owner said the product “is incense, which is supposed to be burned (in a potpourri container) with water.”

“Let’s say I am selling gasoline. Am I selling it to burn down a home? No, it is being sold to put in vehicles,” he said.

The store has carried the incense for about six months, after a customer requested it, he said.

The manufacturer does not state an age-limit policy. However, a few months ago after reading a newspaper article about the product being misused, the owner adopted a store policy to only sell the incense to people 18 years or older.

“We made that a store policy,” he said. “If someone mentions that he is going to smoke it, I won’t sell the product. I will send them out the door.”

In addition, after a concerned person talked to him about someone who was misusing the product, he quit selling it to the person who was reported to be abusing it.

He said the store does not carry “Spice” — and the other brand names are different than “Spice.”

“When the state of Maine says it is illegal, I will stop selling it,” he said.

 

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