Spice and K2 Banned by the DEA – Is it Enough?
Synthetic drugs are sweeping the nation, often with tragic results. “Fake pot” products such as K2 and Spice have grown in popularity, prompting state and federal bans that classify the drugs as Schedule 1 controlled substances similar to heroin and cocaine.
Until recent bans went into effect, Spice and K2 were sold legally in convenience stores, tobacco shops and on the Internet. They are still available online and remain undetectable by most drug screens. The drugs are sold as herbal incense – dried leaves coated with chemicals similar to marijuana – which users typically smoke to get high.
Health officials report the following side effects of K2 or Spice:
- Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
- Extreme anxiety and paranoia
- Chest pain
In Iowa, a teenage boy killed himself with a rifle after trying K2 at a graduation party. Three otherwise healthy 16-year-old boys in Texas had heart attacks after using the drug.
Although Spice and K2 haven’t been linked to as many deaths as other synthetic drugs, such as bath salts, incidents are likely underreported. Poison control centers and emergency departments report frequent incidents related to K2 and Spice. Because the drug is relatively new, research hasn’t yet documented its exact ingredients or long-term effects, but experts believe they are particularly dangerous for developing teen brains.
Is a Spice/K2 Ban Enough?
In March 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration exercised its emergency authority to ban five chemicals used to make fake pot, saying the action was necessary to “prevent an imminent threat to public safety.” The ban on K2 and Spice will remain in effect for at least one year while the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services study whether a permanent ban is appropriate.
The DEA ban is an important and necessary step to protect the public from dangerous synthetic drugs like Spice and K2. But the ban is just the beginning. Manufacturers are already modifying the chemical make-up of fake pot to get around the ban, and enforcement will be both difficult and costly.
Parents, teachers and other concerned adults play an important role in guarding against the abuse of Spice and K2, especially among teenagers. While the DEA ban sends a strong message about the risks associated with synthetic drugs, this message must be backed and shared by the individuals most affected by these dangerous drugs.