Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Authorities & others find K2 is not the Spice of life

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, January 31, 2012

“He stood there holding a sandwich in front of him with no clue as to what to do.

He opened it up, looked at it, touched it.

I took it, and folded it over, and then he took a bite out it.

But then we had to tell him, ‘you have to chew.'”

That’s the tragic story of a sailor whom came in with his wife after he had smoked K2 Spice, a synthetic substitute for marijuana.

It was related by Lt. Commander Donald Hurst, a fourth-year psychiatry resident at San Diego Naval Medical Center whom witnessed it.

Recently, the actress Demi Moore was admitted to a hospital suffering from convulsions after “She smoked something — it’s not marijuana, but it’s similar to incense, and she seems to be having convulsions of some sort,” according to a female then present whom spoke with a Los Angeles 9-1-1 operator.

Pentagon military officials are so alarmed by the appearance and use of those compounds and substances by their service members, that they have investigated more than 1100 suspected users. This year alone, the Marines have prosecuted 700 suspected users, and has discharged those found guilty of using it. This year, the Air Force has prosecuted 497 for using K2 Spice, an increase from last year’s figure of 380.

Yes, those substances were legal – albeit for a brief time. However, the military has prosecuted because the damage that is done not only to the unit, it’s cohesion and mission, but to the service member’s family, and ultimately to the nation.

It’s not a laughing matter. Even one use of those unregulated compounds and substances can bring on hallucinations lasting for days at a time.

Marilyn Huestis, PhD, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute for Drug Abuse said, “When you take these drugs, you are hijacking the part of the brain important for many functions: temperature control, food intake, perception, memory, and problem solving. And people taking these high-potency drugs are affecting other important functions throughout their bodies — hormone functions, for example.”

Exotic Asian plants like Blue Lotus and Bay Bean are used to make K2 Spice, and their leaves are coated with chemicals which purportedly mimic the effects of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana. However, those substances have unknown effects upon human subjects, and are five to 200 times more powerful.

On March 1, 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration invoked its “emergency scheduling authority” to make most “legal high” products illegal. The relatively inactive herbs used in these products are spiked with potent designer drugs. The DEA action applies to five of these drugs: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. The drugs are now on the DEA’s Schedule I, meaning they have no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. The emergency action will remain in effect for a year, during which time the government is expected to call for permanent control of the drugs.

John W. Huffman, PhD, inventor of  JWH-018 put it bluntly, saying, “It is like Russian roulette to use these drugs. We don’t know a darn thing about them for real.”

Some – if not all – of those drugs are unsafe. For example, JWH-018 and its many cousins have a chemical structure shared with known cancer-causing agents.

While the packets themselves are labeled “Not for human consumption,” and are sold as a type of incense, it does not stop people from selling it, or using it to get stoned. Further, the makers and marketers of K2 Spice claim they do not use any illegal chemicals.

 Navy Capt. J.A. “Cappy” Surette, spokesman for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery described the cat-and-mouse game the illicit chemists play with detection by saying, “It’s a moving target.” Military hospitals and laboratories can calibrate equipment to test for five banned chemicals, he said, “but underground chemists can keep altering the properties and make up to more than 100 permutations.”

To further complicate efforts, the clandestine chemists use more than 200 other chemicals to create their illicit concoctions, and Navy doctors warn that the effects upon the mind and body are largely unknown. Further, because no two batches of the drug are the same, some users may describe a buzzy, lightheaded feeling, while others may have psychotic delusions for a week.

Of all branches of the military, the Navy has been most aggressive in prosecuting service members whom use K2 Spice. One person in the San Diego-based Third Fleet was caught with K2 Spice, and the resulting prosecution has led to nearly 100 prosecutions and dismissals from service.

The San Diego Naval Medical Center sees user cases weekly, and notes that users suffer everything ranging from vomiting, dangerously elevated blood pressure & seizures, to extreme agitation, anxiety and delusions.

Dr. Hurst said he witnessed behavior in many cases which seemed like schizophrenia. However, within minutes, the sailor would became completely lucid, yet would go in and out of such episodes for days.

He said that in his study of 10 cases, nine had lost a sense of reality. Seven babbled incoherently. Seven had symptoms lasting four to eight days. Three others are believed to now be schizophrenic. Dr. Hurst said he believed the drug may have triggered the symptoms in people with that genetic disposition. His findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in October, and entitled Psychosis Associated With Synthetic Cannabinoid Agonists: A Case Series.

He concluded by confirming that, “These are not drugs to mess with.”

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