The History of Synthetic Drugs (Spice, K2 and Bath Salts)
Synthetic drugs are those man-made chemical compounds that mimic the effects of illicit drugs, such as “Spice” and “K2”, which are synthetic marijuana products. Bath Salts are a synthetic amphetamine. All drugs of abuse that do not come from plant products or diverted pharmaceuticals could be categorized as synthetics.
For purposes of this discussion, synthetic drugs are being separated from “designer drugs”, such as LSD, PCP, Quaaludes, GHB, etc. which are sometimes included in the category of synthetics because they are designed and developed in chemical laboratories, however, the history of these designer drugs is quite different than that of the synthetics addressed here.
Historically, Spice was first introduced for sale in London in 2004. Competitive brands of Spice entered the U. S. market and became prevalent throughout the country by 2008. Spice and K2 are sold legally in retail establishments, with the drug being labeled as “Not for Human Consumption”, but that statement is followed by an understood wink from the seller, knowing that the intention is that these products will be smoked, mostly by young users, and are being sold as a “legal” substitute for marijuana. The pretense does not stop there; they are marketed as being non-addictive and harmless.
Under the subheading of “herbal incense”, Spice and K2 are made from plant material that is laced with synthetic cannabinoids, which are chemically similar to THC, the psycho-active ingredient in marijuana, however, the addictive qualities and negative side-effects appear to be much more severe in these synthetics.
Interviews with patients in drug rehabilitation facilities and other past users of Spice and K2 reveal tragic stories concerning the intensity of addiction and the emotional and thinking changes that occurred with use. Chronic intake of either Spice or K2 lead to compulsive cravings.
Another common synthetic is marketed as “Bath Salts”. Most people associate this term with minerals used to enhance one’s bath water, however, when consumed orally the salts mimic the effects of methamphetamines. Again, they are sold under deceptive names and bogus instructions on how they are used in order to bypass laws that would make their sale illegal. Side-effects are similar to those of other synthetics, with the exception of many first-time users being struck with psychotic feelings that linger for days after just one use. In the past few years there have been many tragic stories about first time users committing suicide or exhibiting other painful psychotic behaviors.
The side effects or manifestations from using Spice, K2 and Bath Salts are more devastating than effects from marijuana and pharmaceutical amphetamines. Common effects from synthetics include agitation, extreme nervousness, panic attacks and exaggerated fear, paranoia, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, hallucinations, tremors or seizures. Many users will attest to having many of these symptoms on their first use of the drug, swearing that they would never use it again, but finding themselves becoming habitual users.
One of the unique qualities of these drugs that is not seen in most other illicit drugs, is the love/hate relationship addicted users have for these synthetics. They will be highly irritated by the symptoms they experience but will go out of their way and continue to use them anyway.
The United States government was first aware of synthetic marijuana in November of 2008, when they were encountered by the Customs and Border Protection Officers. Other reports pinpoint their being in the U. S. market about the same time. In that short three-year period, these drugs that were sold in tobacco and “head shops” throughout the country have become the second most used substance by American youth per latest statistics, with 11.4% of 12th graders using Spice or K2 during 2011.
This massive increase in use occurred despite continual public health warnings and drug prevention and education activities that enlighten that are educating the public about the dangers inherent with synthetic marijuana and Bath Salts. One reason for this sharp increase is the false impression that because they are “legal” retail products, then they must be safe. This is a natural assumption made by many, but law enforcement can’t act quickly enough to stop the sale of these items, especially over the internet.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has made five of the active chemicals in these drugs controlled and illegal, but manufactures can slightly change the chemical structure to bypass these laws and still keep selling these poisons legally.
Research shows that most of the first-time consumers of Spice and other synthetics do so out of misinformation about the safety of the drugs and the propaganda regarding the “euphoric” effects. Addicted marijuana smokers may use Spice to avert failing a drug test, since Spice does not cause a positive drug test. Others are attracted by the marketing that entices buyers by promoting new and different sensations.
There are still many youth who disavow the claims that Spice, K2 or Bath Salts are addicting or have a higher likelihood of causing drug-induced psychosis. Everyone should heed the words of Professor John Huffman, the person who first synthesized the chemicals that are used in Spice. When asked about their safety, he stated: “People that use it are idiots. You don’t know what it is going to do to you”.* That was nearly ten years ago, unfortunately, today we do know of many who have temporarily or permanently destroyed their lives on these synthetic drugs and have needed longer-term residential drug treatment to end their addiction.
Chemicals that affect one’s feelings cannot be safely assumed that they will produce positive or harmless results. The outcome of taking these synthetic drugs has proven to be very high-risk behavior with no real benefit to the user. The highly deceptive marketing comes from cruel intentions to make easy money in spite of the human suffering and devastating outcomes. Never has the phrase “Buyer beware” been more appropriate than when addressing the marketing of these synthetics.
Quoted from: Wikipedia, Synthetic cannabis.