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Synthetic marijuana, K-2,Serenity, Spice,Genie, Smoke,Pot-pourri,Buzz, Hush, and other names are used to describe a drug alternative to marijuana. It is sold on the street and used in our community by young people. “Spice”, one of the more familiar names, is used by young people when persons are being tested for marijuana because standard lab tests result in negatives. The drug is used by those looking for a “legal high”. However, in Georgia, since July 1, 2010, it is illegal.
Synthetic marijuana substances are still in use because the “high” is stronger and longer lasting than marijuana. The results of many young people I have evaluated is that they stopped use quickly because of unsuspected, unpleasant and sometimes medically dangerous side effects. A few have continued using in spite of consequences because it was significantly more addictive than marijuana for them.
Side effects of synthetics have included: rapid heart rate, agitation, swollen eyes, swollen brain, hospitalization, confusion, nausea, dizziness, addiction, headache,memory problems, and others. For more information check with the American Association of Poison Control Centers warnings.
Until the last few weeks the only source for testing was the GBI, which was not available to the public. Today the Summit Counseling Center has access to a national testing lab for the JWH-018 and JWH-073 synthetic cannabinoids which are the ingredients that cause the high.
What can family members do?
Only lab testing can give assurance of the chemical health of persons who are at high risk to use. I suggest testing persons who have been marijuana users and have been caught or had positive urine screens. If there are friends in the social network who use synthetics then persons should be tested even when marijuana tests are negative. Parents should ask directly: “Have you ever used K-2, Spice, Serenity or any other synthetic marijuana?” If yes, then, “When was your last use?” This is adequate to require an assessment by this office that would result in testing and plan for abstinence, counseling or treatment.
Education about synthetics helps young people make better choices. The reported adverse effects may actually be attractive for some young people who seek high risk activities anyway. My suggestion for parents is to talk about these issues and review actual or potential use in the context of a health concern with clear and meaningful consequences. It is naive for parents to believe that when youth simply have knowledge of the drug and its side effects there will be no use. Combine honest talk, identification of boundaries and consequences and research about the drug. The spiritual part of this is that the main purpose of use is to experience a “high.” This is more difficult to talk about. Currently we do not have tests for all substances that create “high” experiences. Testing alone is not a solution. A full life of honesty and responsibility with safe and sober fun activities including friends, sports, hobbies and family time is needed to adequately address use of these substances. Helping that happen may require professional help.
If you think evaluation, testing, counseling or education would be helpful for youself or persons in your family, then The Summit Counseling Center is available to provide for these. Whoever cares the most can make the first call.