The latest street drug gaining popularity among teens and young people is a form of synthetic marijuana called "Spice" or "K2."
The products are often marketed as "natural incense" or "potpourri," but they are anything but harmless, report researchers in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.
A team led by Jeffrey Moran and his colleagues are developing a method that could someday assist medical professionals in diagnosing and treating people who end up in emergency rooms after taking these types of drugs.
A mix of herbs that produces experiences similar to marijuana, Spice can be purchased in head shops, gas stations or online, despite bans that have been put in place to prevent the sale and distribution of these products.
Users experience many of the same feelings associated with marijuana, like changes in perception and mood. Yet serious side effects are associated with Spice, including extreme anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, kidney damage and even heart attacks.
Since some of the chemicals in Spice attach to the same receptors as THC – but in a stronger way – unpredictable effects can take place.
Moran and his team developed a new method to study how the body processes two popular forms of Spice and K2, known as JWH-018 and AM2201. Using urine samples from 15 people who tested positive for the drug, the researchers found significant differences in how different individuals process the drugs.
"This finding could help explain why some people experience more severe effects from the drugs than others," a press release on the study stated.
According to Narconon International, a drug abuse prevention community, more than 4,000 calls were received by U.S. Poison Control Centers between 2010 and 2012 from people who had consumed Spice drugs. The drugs are also rampant in the military, many addiction experts report, and close to 2,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen were dismissed from the armed services in 2010 and 2011 due to Spice abuse.
Marilyn Huestis, Ph.D., chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute for Drug Abuse, told Web MD that, despite government attempts to make Spice distribution illegal, the problem hasn't gone away.
"I believe it is everywhere in the United States," she said.
Source: Science Daily