Synthetic marijuana use is rising, and more and more teens are experiencing side effects so serious they need to go to the emergency room.
You may not have realized it, but synthetic marijuana is being sold in gas stations and convenience stores. Under the names "K-2" and "Spice," this synthetic drug aims at being a legal way to get a herbal high. Many states have banned the drugs though because they are made from dangerous "chemical concoctions," reports the Christian Science Monitor.
"K-2" began being sold in 2006 as incense or potpourri, reported livescience.com. It's price is similar to that of marijuana in that it is sold for between $30-$40 for a three gram bag.
What is in synthetic marijuana?
Since synthetic marijuana is mainly made by individual sellers, the exact ingredients are not known. One of the chemicals in the synthetic drugs that was outlawed was JWH-018, which produces effects similar to THC. JWH-018 was found in "K-2" and was blamed by one coroner's report for the death of a 19-year-old basketball player.
What does "K-2" and "Spice" do to a user?
The drugs "K-2" and "Spice" are said to cause hallucinations, vomiting and agitation among other dangerous effects. Chemicals in these synthetic drugs "mimic the activity THC has in the brain," reports homehealthtesting.com.
Reports show that some users of the synthetic drug have been sent to emergency room due to elevated heart rates, paranoia, vomiting and hallucinations.
Where is the synthetic drug banned?
According to CBS News, the synthetic marijuana is already banned in most of Europe, with the U.S. slowly following. Many states banned synthetic marijuana independently. Among those states are Illinois, Ohio, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
Twenty states had bans on the synthetic drug as of March, 2011.
The problems with its availability
"We're seeing middle-school kids walking into stores and buying it," said Missouri state representative Ward Franz to The New York Times in 2010. It has been sold in stores as incense and states "not for human consumption," which is how the drug has been able to avoid regulation. Being sold in gas stations, head shops and online, the synthetic drug is easily accessible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's estimated that one in nine high school seniors have tried the synthetic drugs. The CDC also reported that calls to poison centers over the drugs rose from 2,900 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2011. Just within the first two months of 2012 there were 2,200 calls to the poison center over the drugs.
The reason why these drugs are currently still legal is because manufacturers keep changing the chemical composition, reports United Press International.
So how does one fight synthetic marijuana? According to Elizabeth Dowdell, associate professor in the college of nursing at Villanova University, it's about education. Dowdell told the Christian Science Monitor that not only education of teens could help lower the number of people using synthetic marijuana, but education of teachers, nurses, doctors and parents.
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