Cracking the Chemistry Makeup of Synthetic Drugs

Makers of synthetic marijuana have been able to dodge law enforcement officials by continuous tweaking the chemicals in their products, but police are now hoping to find ways to finally crack the code.

The Synthetic Nightmare

Synthetic cannabis, which has street names including “Spice” and “K2,” are often sold at locations such as gas stations and tobacco shops under advertising on the packaging as “potpourri.” It’s typically smoked, but can also be taken in a liquid or vaporized form.

Many of the side effects of Spice are similar to that of marijuana, but instances of aggressive and violent behavior have also been reported. A Wisconsin man was arrested last August after smoking synthetic marijuana, fighting with police and threatening to kill his neighbors because he was convinced he was going to die.

Cracking Down

Although synthetic marijuana was outlawed by the federal government in 2011, makers of the drug have been able to get around this issue by using ingredients that produce a high, but hadn’t been banned by the government quite yet. And because it can often takes months for a chemical or substance to be banned, synthetic marijuana has never left the drug market. In fact, its popularity has only increased during recent years.

That doesn't mean the consequences are any less fatal, though. Last July, 19-year-old Connor Eckherdt passed away after smoking synthetic marijuana. Eckherdt ultimately slipped into a deep coma and suffered massive brain swelling.

New Hampshire even went so far as to declare a state of emergency last August, thanks to a synthetic-like marijuana product called “Smacked” that resulted in numerous overdoses throughout the state.

“These substances are not benign,” said Dr. Andrew Monte. “You can buy designer drugs of abuse at convenience stores and on the Internet. People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be—up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.”

The Deadly After Effects

Even quitting using synthetic marijuana can produce crippling consequences. Although the physical effects of doing so are relatively minimal, severe depression has also been reported among some users.

“One day…I understood with absolute clarity that the only way for me to escape from the awful life I was in was to murder both of my children and then kill myself,” said Valentina, a synthetic marijuana addict in Russia. “I was crystal clear that this was the only course of action open to me. Luckily, my husband stopped me and calmed me down. But what about people who don’t have that support?”

Addition Reading: The Case for Legalizing Drugs and The Case Against Legalizing Drugs.

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