New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones indulged in some synthetic marijuana the other evening that sent him into a paranoid state of agitation, resulting in a brief visit to the hospital. This on the eve of the Pat’s first playoff game in what has already been a very challenging season.
Jones now admits “I made a pretty stupid mistake” and rejoined the Pats in time to help them beat Kansas City and advance to the AFC Championship game. Synthetic marijuana is a big problem, not because of what it is but because of what it is not. It is not actually marijuana but rather chemicals sprayed on dried vegetation that resembles the marijuana plant. The chemicals vary, posing a dangerous risk factor. Some synthetic marijuana users describe a mild high, similar to real marijuana from use of the substance. Others describe intense headaches, nausea, agitation and paranoia, like the experience described by Mr. Jones.
Although real marijuana is readily available in the New England area, many people try to steer clear of it as it is still illegal. Synthetic marijuana, sold as “herbs”, incense or plant fertilizer has become an alternative for many seeking to get high. Sold in local smoke shops or easily available in the Internet, brands such as K2 or Spice have been reported to replicate the high of marijuana.
Because the chemicals vary and are technically not on the illegal list, they may go undetected in a standard drug test. This itself may make use of Spice or K2 an attractive alternative to a professional athlete, subject to drug testing, who wishes to indulge. The chemists mixing the drugs that cause the high try to stay ahead of the authorities so vary the compounds in their product. This makes the effect unpredictable. To prevent intervention by authorities, the products are labelled as “potpourri” or “plant fertilizer”. The usual battery of drug tests will not discern use of these drugs as they are not on the usual list.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers of the synthetics utilize many different types of chemicals in their mixtures, some of them harmful. Reports from around the country confirm serious medical problems and even a few deaths have resulted from use of synthetic marijuana. Recently, officials in Colorado reported over 150 people sickened by synthetic weed sold as “Spice”, “Crazy Clown” and “Dead Man Walking”. In Wyoming the year before , serious kidney damage was reported among a group of synthetic marijuana users.
“Synthetic marijuana is a designer drug in which herbs, incense or other leafy materials are sprayed with lab-synthesized liquid chemicals to mimic the effect of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in the naturally grown marijuana plant (cannabis sativa). Some synthesized compounds have been noted to be 100 times more potent than the average THC found in marijuana”
Although the DEA banned the sale of some synthetic marijuana in 2012, the manufacturers have substituted other chemicals that have side stepped the ban. 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 (myocardial ischemia), and in a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks. Regular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms.
Looks like Mr. Jones and the Patriots were lucky this time.