SAN DIEGO - The new synthetic designer drug Spice has become the newest fad among young individuals. From August to December 2010, Naval Medical Center San Diego admitted 15 active duty service members for symptoms relating to Spice.
Service members need to be aware of the serious side effects such as hallucinating (seeing and hearing things that are not actually present), paranoia (believing people are after them), or confusion to the point of becoming debilitating. These symptoms can often last days, long after the high and the drug is out of the system. Even more alarming, a handful of patients continue to have these symptoms months after their last Spice inhalation.
Spice is a man-made drug most commonly sold in a tobacco form but can also be sold in its raw form as a powder. It mimics many of the perception-altering effects of marijuana. But, because it is artificially produced it tends to be far stronger than Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the natural psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The newness of this drug means very little medical research has been done on its immediate toxicity and long-term psychological and physical effects.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website, on March 1, 2011, the DEA exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control five chemicals (JWH018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol) used to make so-called "fakepot" products making the possession and sale of these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety. The temporary scheduling action will remain in effect for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.
Part of its rise in popularity is related to it being both legal (until recently) and undetected in the normal drug screening process. Concern over the growth in the use of Spice resulted in the U.S. Marine Corps banning it in September 2008. And in July 2009, 15 sailors aboard the USS George Washington (CVN 73) were discharged from the U.S. Navy for taking Spice resulting in a Navy-wide ban on the drug in March 2010.
Most recently in January 2011, seven Navy midshipmen were discharged from the U.S. Naval Academy due to Spice use. According to the March 17, 2011 Navy Rhumblines, 192 Sailors have been held accountable for the use or possession of Spice or a Spice derivative since fiscal year 2011.
Spice presents a real and present danger to an individual's mental and physical health, as well as their military careers.
Lt. (Dr.) George Loeffler is a second year psychiatry resident at NMCSD.
Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Donald Hurst is a third year psychiatry resident at NMCSD.
For more information on Naval Medical Center San Diego visit: http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/Pages/default.aspx
For more information on the United States Drug Enforcement Administration visit: http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/pressrel/pr030111.html
Navy Rhumblines visit: http://www.navy.mil/navco/pages/rhumb_lines.html