Don't Spice up Your Life with These Chemicals
Jul 06 2016
With the introduction in the UK of the Psychoactive Substances Act in May 2016, the drugs classed as so-called legal highs will no longer be legal. There are many different types of synthetic drugs that are classed as psychoactive substances — but one of the main classes are the synthetic cannabinoids.
One of the main synthetic cannabinoids is Spice — and the drug is causing concern both in the UK and the USA.
Spice — spray dried plants
Spice is a form of synthetic cannabinoid. A chemical that has been designed to act like cannabis — or at least like the main psychoactive component of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It produces similar effects to cannabis — with feeling of happiness or euphoria, hunger pangs and drowsiness. But spice can also induce negative feelings too — and because of the potency of the synthetic chemicals, these can make spice more dangerous than conventional weed.
Spice can be sold as a shredded plant — sometimes flavoured and coloured — with the plant helping to imitate the cannabis leaves it is meant to replicate. But in reality, spice is a synthetic chemical that has been manufactured and the sprayed onto the plant which is then shredded up. It is the synthetic chemical that mimics cannabis’ effects as the chemicals acts on the same signalling pathways in the brain. But because the production isn’t controlled, synthetic cannabis can have dangerous side effects including heart attacks, strokes and kidney damage.
Dangerous and difficult to find
Unlike cannabis, or THC, with its constant molecular formula derived through millions of years of plant evolution — synthetic cannabis has a formula that is changed whenever the chemist and manufacturer feels like. In the UK before the new law was passed, psychoactive drugs were regularly changed in an attempt to circumvent the law — leading to the so called legal highs. And because of the rapidly changing nature of the product, it was difficult for regulators and testing laboratories to keep up. The analysis of cannabis is discussed in this article, Evaluation of Evaporative Techniques in the Extraction and Preparation of Cannabis Oil.
This means that the people using the drug could regularly pass drug tests — and in the US this is believed to have caused a spate of poisonings as people could take the drug and pass the workplace or law enforcement drug tests. Something that couldn’t happen when they were taking cannabis.
In one month, the CDC — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — reports that the Mississippi Poison Control Center had 721 reported poisonings due to synthetic cannabinoids with nine deaths.
The stories of people affected by Spice fill the newspapers — but the regulators are fighting back and it will be interesting to see if another ‘war on drugs’ will work.
How the spice market is affected by the legalization of cannabis in some US states will be interesting — particularly for people in the UK who believe the war on drugs can never be won.
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