Synthetic marijuana is marketed as a cheap way to get a legal marijuana-like high. But health experts say it is 'way more' than marijuana and is 'very dangerous.'
Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board/AP/File
Antidrug activists are concerned by the rising use of manmade drugs known as synthetic marijuana, which purport to be a legal way to a herbal high but are actually dangerous chemical concoctions that are banned in many states.
The drugs, often sold in gas station and convenience stories under names like “K-2” and “Spice,” are known to cause bouts of paranoia and agitation, as well as psychosis. Some teens have coined the term “couch lock” to describe one effect – an inability to move despite being conscious.
“This is nasty, evil, and very scary stuff,” says Nancy Knott, a drug counselor with Scripps Alcohol and Treatment Center in La Jolla, Calif. She relates a recent episode in which one teen considered himself to be Christ Jesus and could not be dissuaded.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 1 in 9 high school seniors has tried the drugs. Calls to poison centers about the drugs rose from 2,900 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2011 and hit 1,200 in the first two months of 2012.
Makers produce chemicals synthetically and then spray them onto dry herbs and plants, hoping to mimic the appearance of marijuana. The chemicals are three to five times more potent than the THC found in marijuana, “leading to symptoms including loss of consciousness, paranoia, and occasionally, psychotic episodes,” says Tod Burke, a professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia.