Thursday August 3, 2017

By Abby Hutmacher


There are many reasons to support cannabis reform – It improves the economy, promotes whole-body health and is just plain fun – but one of the most important reasons to support the legalization of this relatively safe substance is to deter the use of other, more dangerous substances. One such substance: Spice.

Composed of synthetic cannabinoids that have been sprayed onto plant material, Spice is a common go-to for young people because it’s easy to get ahold of – a quick trip to a head shop or even a Google search can turn up multiple variations of this stuff (K2, Bliss, Blaze, etc.) – and it’s extremely hard to regulate.

Because there are hundreds of variations of Spice (each with different chemical compositions), and because new versions are being created regularly, it is practically impossible for the DEA to regulate it. For example, though there are more than 200 known synthetic cannabinoids, only 50 have been banned in the US. As soon as one gets banned, 10 more come along to take its place. It’s a nasty cycle that could be eliminated if cannabis was legal on a federal level.

The Appeal of Synthetic Cannabis

Ask anyone who’s tried Spice or K2 about their experience and most will pipe up with a standard “it’s horrible” response. So why is the use of Spice still growing among teens? In addition to the fact that it’s almost completely unregulated, kids are trying Spice for many reasons: because their friends are doing it, because they have no access to legally-grown cannabis, because youth-oriented drug education is lacking, and because teens are not taught heathy coping mechanisms during this stressful period in their lives.

Pressure from Peers:

Peer pressure is something we’ve been warned about for years – warnings about the type of company you keep or the activities you’re involved in are a regular form of drug prevention – but peer pressure is not always easy to pick up on and does not just come from school friends. Research shows that parental involvement directly affects a teen’s likelihood of later drug use in that strict parents are less likely to have children who use drugs whereas neglectful or absent parenting may have the opposite effect. Likewise, parents who consume drugs themselves may improve drug use perception therefore encouraging their children to do the same. Interestingly, daughters of single fathers are more likely to use drugs as teens while a parent’s gender had no bearing on the likelihood of sons using drugs.

Drug Availability:

Even legal drugs like alcohol can be difficult for youth to get ahold of – but not Spice. Because it’s sold as potpourri and labeled “not for human consumption,” Spice can be sold to youth with absolutely no age restrictions which means anyone can get it easily and affordably (hell, they don’t even sell glue to minors anymore but they can still get K2). Not only that, Spice serves as an alternative to drugs like cannabis which many employers and corrections facilities can test for. For those looking to “clean out their system” for a drug test, Spice is a common alternative.

Think twice before your next Spice transaction. photo credit

Youth Drug Education:

The DARE program has been used in schools for 35 years and is designed to teach youth about the dangers of drug use. Unfortunately, the program does little to educate youth about how to get out of peer pressure situations nor does it give them real opportunities to put these practices into play. Furthermore, drug prevention programs like DARE are extremely short-lived (usually lasting only a few months) which does not have the same staying power as other, longer programs. Drug education prevention programs that have been implemented because of excess cannabis taxes, however, have proven effective by lasting for many years, by offering real-world scenarios and how to combat them, and by highlighting the relatively low prevalence of drug use in general.

Effective Coping Mechanisms:

Whether it be out of boredom or stress, many youth use drugs to help them cope with the pressure of the teen years. When not offered successful coping mechanisms, many young people turn to drugs and alcohol to lessen the burden. Unfortunately, when teens use drugs to cope with stress, they are priming their brains to deescalate the situation with drugs rather than using effective coping tools. This can lead to addiction and drug dependence, and can exacerbate stressful situations in the future. To prevent teen drug use, they must be provided effective alternatives to stress relief.

Long-Term Effects of Spice Use

The effects synthetic cannabinoids have on a person over time vary depending on the person and the chemical composition of the product. For some, the high is quick and intense but relatively benign. For others, the high can result in things like hallucinations, delusions and extreme paranoia.

Spice can have long-lasting effects including profound anger issues, an increased susceptibility to seizures, though research into the matter is young and often inconclusive due to the wide scope of chemicals involved.

Interestingly, some claim that synthetic cannabinoids have altered the effectiveness of cannabis. Because synthetic cannabinoids bind fully to cannabinoid receptors rather than partially the way cannabinoids found in cannabis and the human body do, it can increase sensitivity to cannabinoids in general. Those who claim Spice affects marijuana’s interaction in the body state that extreme paranoia and an increased heartrate stop them from enjoying the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

Some drug are good, some are bad and some downright terrifying. One of the scariest drugs on the market, Spice, is unregulated and causes long-term damage to our youth. To prevent future Spice consumption, regulating the chemicals within it is ineffective. Instead, we must educate young people about the short-and long-term dangers of Spice consumption and offer them healthy alternatives for dealing with stress.

Have you or anyone you know tried synthetic cannabinoids? Tell us about your experience.

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman (license)

Abby Hutmacher Abby Hutmacher

Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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