Fairfield police caution public on dangers of synthetic marijuana
On March 15, the Fairfield Police Department seized packages containing synthetic marijuana from The Snack Shack, 102 N. Court St., in Fairfield.
Police Chief Julie Harvey said she would like the community and especially parents to be aware of synthetic marijuana and its potential dangers.
A police department press release March 17 said the synthetic marijuana had been sold at The Snack Shack as potpourri.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse and Addiction website, www.drugabuse.gov provides the following information, updated in December 2012:
Synthetic marijuana is sold under many names, including K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks and others — and labeled “not for human consumption” — these products contain dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that are responsible for their psychoactive, mind-altering effects.
“Spice” refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana cannabis, and are marketed as “safe,” legal alternatives to that drug.
Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the Drug Enforcement Administration has designated the five active chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it illegal to sell, buy, or possess them.
Spice abusers who have been taken to Poison Control Centers report symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations.
Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart, or myocardial ischemia. In a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks.
Regular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms.
It is not known all the ways Spice may affect human health or how toxic it may be, but one public health concern is that there may be harmful heavy metal residues in Spice mixtures.
Labels on Spice products often claim that they contain “natural” psycho-active material taken from a variety of plants. Spice products do contain dried plant material, but chemical analyses show that their active ingredients are synthetic, or designer, cannabinoid compounds.
Manufacturers of Spice products attempt to evade legal restrictions by substituting different chemicals in their mixtures, while the DEA continues to monitor the situation and evaluate the need for updating the list of banned cannabinoids.
Spice products are popular among young people — of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana.
Easy access and the misperception that Spice products are “natural,” and therefore harmless, have likely contributed to their popularity.
Another selling point is that the chemicals used in Spice are not easily detected in standard drug tests.
Some Spice products are sold as incense, but they more closely resemble potpourri. Like marijuana, Spice is abused mainly by smoking. Sometimes Spice is mixed with marijuana or is prepared as an herbal infusion for drinking.
Spice users report experiences similar to those produced by marijuana such as an elevated mood, relaxation and altered perception — and in some cases the effects are even stronger than those of marijuana.
Some users report psychotic effects like extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.
Because the chemical composition of many products sold as Spice is unknown, it is likely that some varieties also contain substances that could cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect.