Military Confronts Growing Use of Artificial Marijuana

by J.D. Garrett on January 18, 2012

According to reports, a widely available form of synthetic marijuana known as “Spice” is increasingly being used by members of the U.S. military. The drugs can cause users to experience hallucinations for days, yet the herbal mixture is apparently very easy to obtain and can be difficult to detect with drug tests.

Spice_drugAlthough the chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana have been made illegal in over 40 states, including the state of Virginia, those pushing the drug use online venues to carry out their sales and distribution. They often label Spice as potpourri or incense. In states where it is still legal, it is sold in convenience stores, smoke shops and taverns.

Military authorities have especially found the availability of the substance to be quite disturbing because of the dangerous side effects users have experienced after using the drugs. As a result, the military has been accelerating efforts to test soldiers for the drug.

Investigations have already targeted well over 1,100 members of the military who are believed to be users of Spice. In February 2011, more than 15 sailors were discharged from a Norfolk-based assault ship after it was discovered that they were involved with selling or using the banned substance.

Exotic Asian plants are used in making Spice, and the leaves of the plants used contain chemicals with effects similar to that of the active ingredient in marijuana, THC. Experts say, however, that the impact of Spice on users can be from five to 200 times more powerful than that of marijuana, making it far more dangerous.

The hallucinations are one dangerous side effect of the use of such synthetic drugs, especially in a military environment where soldiers need to be fully alert to carry out already dangerous assignments. Other dangerous side effects include: vomiting, high blood pressure, seizures, extreme anxiety and delusions.

Although the drug is banned in many states, makers of Spice have altered the chemicals used in the drugs in order to skirt the laws by using different chemicals in the products that are not yet banned. This has made it increasingly more difficult for the military to detect the chemicals in drug tests performed on service members, and it has also made it difficult for states banning the substances to charge those who are allegedly selling the products.

A spokesman for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery said that artificial marijuana is a “moving target,” because of the way in which underground chemists are adapting to the new laws and bans.

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