I remember my mother vividly- warning against taking any of the brightly colored packages strewn on the counters of gas stations and convenience stores. I couldn’t understand why she was so adamant, but I took her word for it anyway and forgot about them entirely. Now I know why.
The inviting packages paraded by quick-stops and gas stations on cluttered checkout counters have been the source of over 44 overdoses in New Hampshire in a 72 hour period, according to NHPR. But synthetic drugs are reaching beyond New hampshire. In our own Floridian streets, the synthetic alpha-pvp, flakka, is ravaging the community with untreated substance use disorders- and you can buy one of its main ingredients- kratom- in the same crowd-pleasing packaging from your local fill-up station. But they’re not real drugs, they’re synthetic- so what’s the problem?
It’s true, the products I’ve mentioned are entirely synthetic. K2 and Spice, for instance, were synthesized to mimic marijuana; hence the term synthetic marijuana. Unlike the cannabis plant, which eventually breaks down in your system, synthetic marijuana keeps going and going, until your liver can catch up. But until then it’s like the energizer bunny on steroids is running around your bloodstream- except, you’re the one who’s going to feel its effects, in the worst way possible.
Instead of synthetic marijuana users just remaining high for hours, (and sometimes days) on end, the chemical reaction caused by the synthetic substance quickens tiny receptors found all over the brain, which can induce the desired state of the perpetual high, or a manic bouts of psychosis.
NHPR got an inside look at the life of a recovering user of synthetic substances. His name is Cameron, and he recently checked himself into a sober living community for stability and a chance at sobriety to complete school. He recently survived a chronic bout of psychosis landing him in the hospital, from none other than synthetic marijuana. He recounts being able to purchase the drug from his local convenience stores, until they got harder to find. But the internet supplied him with what he couldn’t get his hands on at home.
But who cares? It’s not even a real drug!
That’s precisely why you should care. Not only is synthetic marijuana unregulated, most of the brands (if not all) you find at your local stores are made by chemists (or are they really?) who “douse chemicals onto plant matter, could be weeds from a backyard” as quoted from NHPR, and then expect you to ingest the substance. And many people do!
In the K2 and Spice business the factors of chemical instability and potency levels vary from package to package. Each pack of synthetic marijuana has the potential of secreting a dangerous dose of chemicals- which may result in overdose or bouts of psychosis.
If that’s the case, why don’t we just regulate the substance? New Hampshire may be, but probably not in the way users want. A new bill (SB106-FN) is calling for the ban of synthetic drugs for both sale and possession. But the problem can’t be that rampant to ban the substance entirely, can it? Let’s look at some data:
– In November of 2014 synthetic marijuana was responsible for 150 hospitalizations in Lafayette, LA, according to the NIH.
– Flakka, the new South Florida spin on bath salts (yes, those bath salts) has been linked to suicide, heart attack, kidney failure, and aggressive delirium.
– Fentanyl (which is 50-100 times stronger than morphine, according to the NIH) is responsible for overdoses in many U.S. cities, and in March the DEA issued a national alert about the substance.
Whatever your stance is on the debate for, or against, the ban of synthetic drugs, take Cameron’s words into consideration, NHPR quotes him lamenting, “It was not long for the culture of Spice within [Manchester] to suck my soul into the black hole.”