Synthetic marijuana use down, but real pot use up among teens

From CBS News:

While use of synthetic pot is down among high schoolers, more teens are smoking real marijuana, a government survey revealed.

Health officials are concerned, as the survey also found fewer teens are worried about the potential dangerous effects from marijuana use.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health released the 2013 Monitoring the Future survey on Wednesday. The annual survey asks eighth, 10th and 12th graders across the country about their drug use history and how they feel about illicit drugs. This year’s survey involved results from 41,675 students from 389 schools.

Synthetic marijuana -- often sold under the brands K2 or Spice -- was not as popular as it used to be among 12th graders. The survey showed 7.9 percent of high school seniors surveyed admitted to using it this year, while 11.9 said they smoked it last year.

Daily pot use among high school seniors was recorded at 6.5 percent, up 4 percent over the last 20 years. Overall, 23 percent of seniors, 18 percent of 10th graders and 12 percent of eight graders lit up in the month before being surveyed.

The survey's authors are concerned, because less than 40 percent of high school seniors believe that marijuana use will have negative effects. Those numbers are the lowest since 1978.

Part of the concern is because marijuana today is stronger than it used to be. In 1990, marijuana had about 3.35 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient that gets users high. In 2013, pot contained a little less than 15 percent THC on average.

Over the last five years, opioid, alcohol and cigarette use also declined, according to the survey. Vicodin and salvia use was down amongst the oldest teens surveyed, as well as the use of inhalants by eighth graders. Cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine abuse levels remained low among students.

However, researchers were startled to find that non-medical use of Adderall has increased over the last four years. About 7.4 percent of high school seniors said they used Adderall recreationally in 2013. The researchers believe that teens think that using the prescription ADHD drug will help their grades, and there is some evidence they are using the pills to get high.

Randall County nets Texas' first felony conviction for K2

From the Amarillo Glode-News:

A local shop owner was the first person convicted of felony charges for the synthetic drug K2 in Texas.

James Medina has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in Randall County to selling the drug in his shop, Up N Smoke, a year ago.

Potter County District Attorney Randall Sims said Potter also is doing everything in its power to eliminate K2.

Three other seizures have been made in the past year for similar drugs. Randall County authorities arrested the owner of The Green Gorilla Smoke Shop on a drug charge in November. In April, Amarillo Police Narcotics Unit seized similar substances at Planet X and Borger police arrested a Pampa man for delivering such substances.

Posted: 9/17/2013 1:51:00 PM

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What you need to know about synthetic drugs

From CNN:

What exactly are synthetic drugs?

There is no exact definition, because the term is used to describe a wide range of chemical products that are ever-changing. Synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" are the most common of these drugs. Unlike drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, these drugs do not come from plants; they are manmade.

When did they start appearing in the United States and who's using them?

These drugs first appeared in the United States around 2009, according to Scherbenske, and they have since exploded in popularity, particularly among teenagers.

Social media-savvy teens use the Internet to spread the word about where to find these drugs to -- as Scherbenske explains -- "discuss the effects these substances had on their body."

What's the point of making synthetic drugs?

Synthetic drugs makers have easy access to customers by marketing these drugs as harmless household items. So they make lots of money.

Are these drugs legal?

The federal government and at least 38 states have taken steps to ban the substances. But, as soon as one compound is banned, the molecular structure of the synthetic product is altered and that "changes the whole structure of the drug, so the drug becomes legal and we're at it again," James Capra, DEA chief of operations, said at a news conference in June, according to Time magazine.

Retailers are also skirting the law by labeling the drugs as "not for human consumption," according to the DEA's Scherbenske.

The manufacturers' main goal is to alter the chemical compound to stay one step ahead of the law.

The combination of those compounds and their reactions "is very scary," Scherbenske said.

"We do not know the long term effect that it will have on a person's body."

Who is making this stuff?

Most of the chemicals that are used to make these synthetic drugs are coming directly from China, according to the DEA's John Scherbenske.

Who's selling it here in the U.S.?

Scherbenske says people are starting their own businesses to sell these drugs once they see the profit potential.

These retailers have even taken the feds to court to protect their business: four stores sued the DEA in 2011, claiming the federal agency was "impeding their business," Scherbenske said.

3 deaths may be tied to synthetic marijuana in Colorado

From CNN:

Three people in Colorado may have died after smoking synthetic marijuana, state health officials fear. The Colorado Department of Public Health has launched an investigation into an outbreak of illnesses at hospitals that may be tied to the dangerous substance.

"Initial reports show approximately 75 people who reported smoking a form of synthetic marijuana may have been seen at hospitals in the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs beginning in late August," said Dr. Tista Ghosh, interim chief medical officer for the state, in a written statement. "Several individuals were in intensive care and three deaths are being investigated as possibly associated."

The Colorado Department of Health, with help from local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will attempt to figure out if the synthetic marijuana is to blame, and if so, whether all the patients were sickened by the same product or different ones.

Posted: 9/6/2013 2:48:00 PM

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New “Crazy Clown” Drug Hits Streets Of Georgia

From WSAV:

A scary new drug known as "Crazy Clown" is sending some users to the hospital. The synthetic incense is causing authorities to sound the alarm.

Chief Matt Doering says all eight users, ages 16 to 26, were unable to control themselves.  Some were taken to the ICU unable to breathe.

Police are now testing "Crazy Clown" to see what chemicals it contains.  Doering says manufacturers and distributors may be skirting state and federal laws by altering ingredients to stay one step ahead of the law.

The  CDC is now investigating, concerned about effect of "Crazy Clown" on other users across the country.  Right now, all police can do is issue a warning.

Posted: 8/28/2013 10:20:00 AM

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New Zealand: Prove recreational drug is safe, then you can sell

From CNN:

The New Zealand government wants to make sure your high is safe.

In an attempt to tackle the popularity of new-generation synthetic party drugs -- sold widely in convenience stores and blamed for triggering a spate of mental health issues -- New Zealand authorities have taken a radical new tack.

A new law shifts the onus to the makers of synthetic recreational drugs, forcing them to conduct clinical tests to prove their products are safe -- similar to the way pharmaceuticals are regulated.

It's the first nation to take a dramatically different approach to psychoactive substances like party pills and synthetic marijuana.

In a 119-to-1 vote on Thursday, the country's parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Bill, establishing a framework for testing, manufacturing and selling such recreational drugs.

Under the law, new psychoactive drugs cannot be sold unless they pass health regulations. That process will be determined by the country's Ministry of Health.

Here is what else the Psychoactive Substances Bill entails:
- Restricts where and how psychoactive drugs are sold
- Prohibits sales to minors
- Restricts labeling and packaging of products
- Gives existing products a grace period to begin application process

DEA Launches 'Largest Ever' Synthetic Drug Bust

From U.S. News & World Report:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced on Wednesday that it has launched its "largest ever" sweep against synthetic drugs, issuing hundreds of search and arrest warrants across the globe.

Law enforcement officials executed more than 150 arrest warrants and nearly 375 search warrants in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries on Wednesday, according to a DEA statement. More than 225 people have been arrested in the United States, Australia, Canada, Barbados and Panama as a result of the crackdown, BBC News reported.

"This is a significant seizure of synthetic drugs and is a terrific result for our respective law enforcement agencies," said Graham Fletcher, Australia's acting ambassador to the United States, in the DEA statement. "Australia remains committed to sharing intelligence with its U.S. partners to combat transnational crime across international borders. This is a win for our collective communities."

The operations targeted trafficking organizations focusing on designer synthetic drugs, that have operated "without regard for the law or public safety."

Since the project began last December, more than 75 arrests have been made and nearly $15 million in cash an assets have been seized, according to DEA officials. More than 550 kilograms, about 1,200 pounds, of drugs have been seized in the last three days.

Death link to synthetic cannabis

From The New Zealand Herald:

Synthetic cannabis has been linked to an overseas death.

A case report published last month by the Japanese Association of Forensic Toxicology connected the death of a 59-year-old man to the synthetic cannabinoid MAM-2201.

The man was found dead in his home, with packets of synthetic cannabis nearby.

No evidence of violence or disease was found, and doctors from Tokai University, where a forensic autopsy was performed, concluded "the man's death was caused by acute intoxication with MAM-2201".

Toxicologist Leo Schep, of the National Poisons Centre, said caution was needed in interpreting the results, and it was difficult to establish conclusively that synthetic cannabis had caused the death. He said that in New Zealand the health effects of the drugs had been linked to paranoia, seizures, psychotic episodes and acute renal injuries.

Teen narrowly escapes death after smoking synthetic marijuana

From CNN:

Hospital staff removed Emily Bauer's breathing tube and stopped all medication and nourishment at 1:15 p.m. December 16. Only morphine flowed into her body, as the family waited by her side in her final moments.

But the next morning, she was still alive.

"Good morning, I love you," her mother told Emily as she approached the bed.

A hoarse voice whispered back, "I love you too."

Emily was back.

Her family said the drug that landed the Cypress, Texas, teenager, then 16, in the ICU two weeks earlier wasn't bought from a dealer or offered to her at a party. It was a form of synthetic weed packaged as "potpourri" that she and friends bought at a gas station.

Best known by the street names "Spice" or "K2," fake weed is an herbal mixture sprayed with chemicals that's meant to create a high similar to smoking marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Advertised as a "legal" alternative to weed, it's often sold as incense or potpourri and in most states, it's anything but legal.

Synthetic marijuana was linked to 11,406 drug-related emergency department visits in 2010, according to a first-of-its-kind report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This is when it first started showing up on health providers' radar, as the Drug Abuse Warning Nework detected a measurable number of emergency visits.

Who wound up in the emergency room the most? Children ages 12 to 17.

The first state laws banning synthetic drugs popped up in 2010. Now at least 41 states -- including Texas, where Emily lives -- and Puerto Rico have banned them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Older legislation targeted specific versions of the drug, but the makers of Spice were a step ahead.

"These drug manufacturers slightly change the chemical compound, and it becomes a different substance that's not covered by the law," said NCSL policy specialist Alison Lawrence. "That's why in 2011 and 2012, we saw the states enacting these broader language bans."

Common side effects to smoking synthetic marijuana include bloodshot eyes, disturbed perceptions and a change in mood, said Dr. Melinda Campopiano, a medical officer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"People can become very agitated or can be come unresponsive -- conscious but not reacting normal to situations," she said. They may also appear paranoid or describe hallucinations. Some of the more potentially serious effects include an elevated heart rate and elevated blood pressure.

Campopiano said she had never heard of a patient having a stroke in these circumstances, but she described how high blood pressure could lead to one.

Knowing how different people will react to fake weed is impossible. There are a few reasons that explain why.

"You're hearing some pretty bad things with the synthetic cannabinoids -- part of that has to do with the potency. It can be 100 times more potent than marijuana," said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno.

Carreno explained there's no consistency or quality control from one time to the next. The people making these products can be anyone from a college kid wanting to make extra cash to an operation blending large quantities in a cement mixer, she said. Two batches made by the same person could have different doses.

One in every nine high school seniors admits to having used fake weed in 2011, according to a national survey by the University of Michigan. Synthetic marijuana is the second-most popular illicit drug they use, behind marijuana.

In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed legislation banning five common chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana and bath salts. And that same month, the DEA seized almost 5 million packets of fake weed in its first national sweep of the drug.

States handle the penalties for drug offenses in lots of different ways and possession has varying definitions, according to NCSL's Lawrence.

'Candy weed' marks new era in drug threat to teens, adults

From the Deseret News:

Matt Fairbanks, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Utah, calls it a game of "chemical cat and mouse."

As fast as law government agencies are banning synthetic substances such as spice and bath salts, criminals are changing a molecule or two to come up with a new substance just as dangerous that doesn't meet the criteria of the law that banned the last synthetic drug.

One of the latest substances that has law enforcers worried: synthetic marijuana brownies. "Candy Weed," as it's known, is synthetic THC mixed with flavored corn syrup and made into little candy squares. Fairbanks said it's a trend that law enforcement officers haven't seen in Utah yet. But once a new drug appears in places like California, he said it's only a matter of time before it finds its way to the Beehive State.

A 2011 National Institute on Drug Abuse survey found that more than 11 percent of twelfth-graders reported using synthetic marijuana, according to the Utah Attorney General's Office.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported receiving 2,906 calls because of Spice in 2010 and 6,955 in 2011, showing an increased popularity of the drug. Spice accounted for 11,206 emergency room visits in 2010, and 75 percent of patients were ages 12 to 29, according to recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Also from Action News (Philadelphia):

Parents are being urged to be on the lookout for a deceiving piece of candy. It's called weed candy, and police are concerned that it could be laced with more than marijuana.

It is an emerging trend in the world of illegal drugs, and they call it "pot candy" or "weed candy."

Authorities say what makes these candies particularly dangerous is that there is no telling if they might be laced with other drugs or toxic chemicals.

Any parents should look for unwrapped or re-wrapped candies that look like Jolly Ranchers.

Posted: 2/4/2013 9:53:00 AM

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