What is SPICE Gold – The New Herbal Marijuana

As a parent, if you’re not sure what to believe about marijuana, how will you handle the subject with your child? Maybe you smoked pot as a teen.

Maybe you never tried pot, or you don’t even know what it looks like. Maybe you’re simply confused over conflicting claims about the whether marijuana is addictive.

At some point, you will find yourself in the position of having to take a stand. The issue of marijuana is not going away.

The national debate on the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana has been steadily picking up pace in the last 12 months as California explores legalizing and taxing marijuana to create new revenue streams to meet state budget shortfalls. All across the United States, the cultural tone continues to shift regarding marijuana.

At the time of this writing, ten states have passed laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. No doubt the battle will rage on as parties on both sides of the emotional debate sling scientific mud to rally constituents and influence politicians.

Making the issue of marijuana use more confusing is the growing number of marijuana alternatives, including the herbal marijuana known as SPICE.

As a professional working in the field of substance use and abuse, my experience tells me that there are few if any psychoactive intoxicants that don’t put the user at risk. Marijuana intoxication certainly falls into that category. It is my opinion that marijuana is addictive and can cause devastating consequences to adolescents – legally, emotionally, and physically.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug used by teens today. Approximately 60 percent of the kids who use drugs use only marijuana. Of the 14.6 million marijuana users in 2002, approximately 4.8 million used it on 20 or more days in any given month.

The levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – have reached the highest-ever amounts since scientific analysis of the drug began in the late 1970s. Each year, 100,000 teens enter drug treatment for marijuana dependence. This constitutes a steady rise in treatment admissions since the 1980s.

Far from the benign substance popular media likes to portray marijuana as, I speak with students on a weekly basis who struggle to quit using marijuana and/or minimize its impact on their life. Most of the pro-marijuana messages coming out of the media appear to be coming from adult users who have apparently (I’m speculating) navigated adolescence successfully.

Research does suggest the risk of marijuana dependence for adult users is minimal. It does not suggest the same for adolescents. The risks for teens are higher due to the confluence of risk associated with social maturation and biological vulnerabilities.

More alarming is the increasingly popular marijuana herbal replacement classified as SPICE. Like all new drugs entering the popular culture, there is very little known about SPICE or JWH-018, leaving many to speculate on its danger.

Recent tests have shown that smoking the drug can cause undesirable side effects on the heart, circulation, and nervous system. A SPICE high can cause what is called “couchlock” or the inability to move. Other risks include: persistent body numbness, lung irritation, high blood pressure, severe and persistent headaches, blacking out, blurred vision, and anxiety.

Last year, I received many emails from students asking me about it, which has only heightened my concern.

Here is an excerpt of an email I received from a student. “I inhaled the spicy smoke into my lungs and blew it out. It tasted awful. Two minutes later, my head was spinning, I couldn’t move, I was sweating profusely, I had this feeling of impending doom, waves of nausea hit me and I got sick in front of a dozen people. I felt ill for hours. Some guy said – you just smoked Spice.”

Some other terms to look out for are SPICE GOLD, SPICE DIAMOND, and YUCATAN FIRE. At times SPICE is called Designer Marijuana, but that is not accurate. The term “designer” describes a spectrum of marijuana varieties that are usually grown indoors hydroponically for high yield.

Spice contains JWH-018, a synthetic psychoactive substance that gives what has been described as a “marijuana-like” high. Usually, SPICE comes packaged in resealable plastic bags. It is most often smoked like loose tobacco or marijuana. SPICE is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase at what are called “Head Shops” due to increased attention from lawmakers.

The availability and legal status of SPICE and other blends seems to be state-by-state at this point. However, there are still companies selling it online. An online search of “SPICE GOLD” or “Herbal Weed” would certainly turn up an online source willing to ship to a buyer of any age.

I suspect this will go the way of the online pharmacy and begin to become more difficult as lawmakers and law enforcement become more vigilant. And if SPICE follows the same path as last year’s trendy drug Salvia, we will see an increase in attention and scrutiny from parents and lawmakers.

YouTube sealed Salvia’s legal fate. Salvia users posted their exploits on the popular video website in staggering numbers last year. The videos ranged from the benign and mildly humorous to the disturbing. These videos caught the attention of parents and lawmakers and soon legislation began to appear in state houses across the United States calling for a change in Salvia’s drug classification.

Education and communication continue to be our best strategy for combating these annual drug fads. Almost yearly, something new appears on the drug radar or an old drug reappears for uncertain reasons. In our hearts we know. We know that pleasure without purpose almost always creates risk.

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