Synthetic Marijuana Use Rising Among Troops
The United States Armed Forces has detected a growing enemy among its troops. This past year in excess of 1,100 soldiers have been investigated for harboring this enemy and endangering their own welfare. Military investigators have seen the use of Spice, an herbal mixture people use to reach a “high,” sometimes more powerful than marijuana, rise at an alarming rate in its soldiers.
Investigators report that in the last two years the number of sailors and Marines investigated for using Spice rose from 29 to over 700. In the Air Force, numbers rose from 380 to 497. The Army did not have a statistic for all investigated, but they reported that 119 of their soldiers had been medically treated for using Spice.
A Study on Soldiers
Although, all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces have seen soldiers overtaken by Spice, the Navy has been the most outspoken in its study of this problem. According to Lt. Commander Donald Hurst, San Diego’s Naval Medical Center has seen more patients for Spice use than any other medical facility in the country. Monthly encounters with Spice patients became weekly. Patients appeared with a variety of symptoms including seizures, anxiety, hallucinations, high blood pressure, and vomiting.
The growing numbers of drug users encouraged Hurst to conduct a study of 10 patients who had used Spice. His study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, outlined the serious affects of taking Spice.
Seven patients suffered from symptoms for four to eight days. Nine out of 10 of the patients had completely lost a sense of reality. Seven patients lost their ability to speak clearly and could only babble. Three patients who had a family history of schizophrenia developed the disorder after taking Spice. Hurst believes that Spice may have caused the disorder to surface.
Easy to Acquire
Easy accessibility to Spice from Internet merchants, smoke shops, bars, and even convenience stores, makes it very popular for young adults and others to obtain. Merchants advertise it as incense or potpourri on Internet sites and claim that Spice is a completely legal form of aromatherapy.
Spice is a blend of exotic Asian plants, including Bay Bean and Blue Lotus whose leaves are coated with a mixture of chemicals to give it qualities very similar to marijuana. Although the leaves are natural, the chemicals are up to 200 times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Difficult to Target
The chemistry of Spice is complex and producers keep changing its properties to avoid chances of it being banned. A spokesman for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, reported that the military has the ability to test for the five chemicals banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, but Spice producers can make more than 100 permutations of the drug. Bans will become ineffective for that drug once the mixture is changed.
Soldiers use Spice as synthetic marijuana, although the effects can range from experiencing a light high to death. While some people may only experience a light buzz from smoking the drug, others have had delusions for over a week. Some patients shut down and could not accomplish small tasks like taking a bite of food and chewing it, while others went into dangerous crazed outbursts of hyper-anxiety.
As the numbers of military users of Spice are rising, investigators and military medical specialists are trying to keep their technology up with detecting the variety of substances found in Spice. Through vigilance and awareness they are keeping their eye on the target.