• Synthetic Marijuana Incident Rates Rise in ERS
  • December 10, 2014 | Author: Stephen J. Burg
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • Visits to U.S. emergency rooms resulting from the use of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, have doubled in recent years, according to Health Day. Specifically, there were more than 28,500 ER visits linked to synthetic pot in 2011, compared with about 11,400 visits in 2010. This is creating country-wide concern, but especially in Colorado, where health officials are worried about the legality and availability of the dangerous substance.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 263 ER visits between Aug. 21 and Sept. 19 across the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs. Of the number hospitalized, some were put in the Intensive Care Unit. 3 deaths are being investigated as potentially linked to the substance as well.

    This burst of use has risen several questions, such as what exactly is synthetic marijuana? Is it safe? It is legal?

    Synthetic marijuana
    The CDPHE defines synthetic marijuana as a mixture of dried herbs and spices sprayed with chemicals to create an effect similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the prominent ingredient in marijuana. Synthetic marijuana is commonly referred to as K2 or Spice, as these are popular brand-named variations of the product. Their popularity came about because of accessibility, as reported by Drugs.com. These products are obtainable from convenience stores, smoke shops and online.

    Concern is drawn from the chemical ingredients, as they are not always the same. In fact, CDPHE has stated that every bag of synthetic marijuana is essentially a mystery bag, as each contains a different amount of unknown chemicals.

    Is it safe?
    Popular belief is that synthetic marijuana is safe, nontoxic and brings about effects similar to those of regular marijuana. However, this is not true. The CDPHE reported side effects may include elevated heart rates and blood pressure, drowsiness, agitation, hallucinations, seizures, tremors, vomiting, paranoia, loss of physical control and even comas. In addition, synthetic marijuana can be up to 500 times more potent than traditional marijuana.

    "Synthetic cannaboids are a growing public health risk - made even more dangerous by the widespread misconception that they are safe and legal," said Pamela Hyde, administrator at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "These injury reports compel us to get the word out to all segments of the community - especially youth - that these products can cause significant harm."

    Is it legal?
    Synthetic cannaboids are often marked as legal, but most of the chemicals used to produce them are classified by the federal government as Schedule 1 substances, which means they are illegal to buy, sell or possess, Vox reported. Colorado state law banned the use of synthetic cannaboids in 2011, according to CDPHE.

    Even so, manufacturers are finding ways around this. Vox reported manufacturers and vendors package the synthetic drugs as incenses or aromatherapy products. They put labels on the packaging that claim the products aren't for human consumption.

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated even though the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has listed the chemical compounds as illegal, manufacturers evade this by substituting different chemicals into the mixes. According to CDPHE, every time a new chemical compound is added to the list of those federally banned, the manufacturers are ready with a different ingredient.