By Marsha Reece, Special Reporter for GRAND Magazine
It looked innocent, according to Domminick. After all, the cashier in the liquor store was smoking it to push sales. Domminick, who quit smoking marijuana six years ago, thought this could give him the high he wanted without the threat of jail time. He said other than pressure in his head and feeling paranoia, the experience was positive. He especially liked the boosting of his blood pressure to enhance his sexual experience. Domminick is 25 years old. He turned to a drug sold on the street, synthetic marijuana. Sold under many different names, this over the counter drug appeals to teens and young adults because they perceive it as a safe way to get high without the legal hassles.
Sometimes the side effects are horrific. Emilie is 24 years old. Her experience after taking the drug was like “someone turned on a facet in her stomach”. Emilie thought she was going to die. She vomited nonstop for hours, pouring out almost every ounce of liquid in her stomach. She also experienced shaking, blurred vision, paranoia, and an excruciating headache. Her senses were in overload, and she was scared. The ambulance was eventually called and she was taken to the hospital.
Synthetic marijuana is created in a lab using plants and herbs that take on the look of marijuana. It becomes synthetic once it is sprayed with a chemical combination similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reportedly received 13,000 calls related to synthetic marijuana and bath salts (another type of designer drug) in 2011. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 years old and younger.
Synthetic marijuana is appealing because the different chemicals used are known to be difficult to detect with commercially available drug tests. Manufacturers are now using chemical compounds that have not been illegally banned. They constantly change its chemical makeup to stay one step ahead of the law. This changing chemical makeup is what varies the side effects. Synthetic marijuana looks like chopped up herbs with a weird exotic smell. It is easily obtained in local convenience stores, herbal shops, and on the internet. Customers spend an average of 20 dollars for a gram.
The increasing popularity of synthetic marijuana led to the development of President Obama’s signing of the new law, The Synthetic Drug Prevention Act of 2012. Some states already have a ban on synthetic drugs. This Federal law provides an expansion of illegal chemical combinations to make arrest. (S.3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act).
Critics of the new law say it won’t do any good because designers of the drug will only create new versions to avoid prosecution. The effectiveness of “The Synthetic Drug Prevention Act of 2012” will be determined once more cases are studied and documented. This new law will however; provide a platform for grandparents and parents to talk to teens and young adults about an important issue.
The known effects of synthetic marijuana are so serious it can even cause a heart attack. Grandparents may want to pay special attention.
Grandparents and parents should be aware that synthetic marijuana is not the same as marijuana. Young people must be educated about the availability, the differences, and the side effects of synthetic marijuana. Health officials say the symptoms for synthetic marijuana vary depending on its content but can include agitation, excessive sweating, inability to speak, restlessness and aggression. The drug could also cause euphoric and psychoactive effects similar to those caused by marijuana. In addition, it can also cause a sudden heart attack leading to death.
Editorial Note: In a poll taken by GRAND Magazine, 85% of respondees said that marijuana should be decriminalized. The poll was in the Mar/April June 2011 issue of GRAND Magazine and can be accessed here: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/grand/20110304_v3/).
Marsha has worked in the TV broadcast industry since 1974. She currently works with GRAND Magazine on the Kinship Care Program and as a contributing reporter. Marsha is married with two adult children and is a grandmother. If you would like to contact Marsha, she can be emailed at: [email protected]