It goes by the name of “Spice.” Or “K2” or “Yucatan Fire” or “Bliss” or “Blaze,” and many, many more. It’s also known as synthetic marijuana. Lu Parker says it’s deadly:
On July 11, Connor Eckhardt inhaled one hit of dried herbs that had been sprayed with chemicals to cause a pot-like high, his parents said.
“In a moment of peer pressure, he gave into that, thinking that was OK, it was somehow safe, and one hit later, he goes to sleep and never wakes up,” Connor’s father, Devin Eckhardt, said.
Isn’t this what most parents of older children and teenagers worry about? That in a weak moment during peer interactions, a child will do something he knows he shouldn’t. “They all make mistakes,” we tell ourselves and then pray they don’t make a fatal one.
> There were more than 28,500 ER visits linked to synthetic pot in 2011, compared to roughly 11,400 in 2010.
> For teens aged 12 to 17, the number of such visits to the ER doubled, from about 3,800 in 2010 to nearly 7,600 in 2011. For those aged 18 to 20, that number quadrupled, from about 2,000 in 2010 to over 8,000 in 2011.
> Males accounted for 79 percent of all visits in 2011. However, the number of visits by females tripled between 2010 and 2011.
Alice G. Walton lists some of the symptoms seen in users of this substance that “is not even close to being the same drug as pot”:
Synthetic cannabis, unlike pot, however, can cause a huge variety of symptoms, which can be severe: Agitation, vomiting, hallucination, paranoia, tremor, seizure, tachycardia, hypokalemia, chest pain, cardiac problems, stroke, kidney damage, acute psychosis, brain damage, and death.
Synthetic cannabis is made from natural shredded plant material and artificial chemicals. When it is smoked, it alters brain functions by binding to the same receptors in the brain as THC. That, says Walton, is where the similarity ends:
Like the active ingredient in pot, THC, synthetic cannabis binds the CB1 receptor. But when it binds, it acts as a full agonist, rather than a partial agonist, meaning that it can activate a CB1 receptor on a brain cell with maximum efficacy, rather than only partially, as with THC. “The first rule of toxicology is, the dose makes the poison,” says Jeff Lapoint, MD, an emergency room doctor and medical toxicologist. “I drink a cup of water, and I’m fine. I drink gallons of it in some college contest, and I could have a seizure and die. Synthetic cannabinoids are tailor-made to hit cannabinoid receptors – and hit it hard. This is NOT marijuana. Its action in the brain may be similar but the physical effect is so different.”
“This was never intended to be used in people,” says Lapoint. “It even says on the label, ‘Not for human consumption.’ Ironically, that’s the only accurate thing on the label. This is not marijuana. It should not be thought of like marijuana. We have to get this out there: Its effects are serious. It’s a totally different drug.”