Overlooking Spice?

SpiceAre you prepared for the new wave of psychoactive substances in the market? Synthetic Cannabinoids originating from clandestine laboratories in China are now being consumed globally and are especially prevalent in Europe, Asia Pacific and in the US.

Synthetic drugs are man-made adaptations of illicit drugs, mimicking the effects of their illegal counterparts. Many varieties are still legal. The most famous example of synthetic drugs on the market are synthetic cannabinoids, marketed as safe, ‘legal alternatives to cannabis’. Readily available from online shops in a wide range of languages and in head shops, synthetic cannabinoids are sold under the names ‘Spice’, ‘K2’, ‘K9’, ‘Cloud Nine’, ‘Annihilation’ and ‘Black Mamba’. The substances are packaged in small vials or foil sealed packets and sold as herbal incense or potpourri, bearing the warning, ‘not for human consumption’. The most common route of administration is smoking, however ingestion as a tea-like infusion is also possible.

The active ingredients of synthetic cannabinoid mixtures act on cannabis receptors in the brain; however the binding pattern is different to natural cannabis and produces stronger effects. Users report highs typically lasting between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Physical effects include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, seizures, shortness of breath and chest pain. Episodes of psychiatric mania and panic, confusion and irritability have been reported. Furthermore, accidental overdosing with a risk of severe psychiatric complications may be more likely to occur because the type and amount of cannabinoid may vary considerably from batch to batch even within the same product.

Synthetic cannabinoids are often used as they are perceived to be legal highs; however this is no longer the case. Many countries including USA, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Austria, Poland, Romania, Sweden and UK have moved quickly to control components in the synthetic cannabinoids mixture.

Another common misconception is that consumers of cannabis can simply switch to the synthetic variety in order to evade detection when undergoing drug testing. Whilst it is true that there was an absence of available testing kits for synthetic cannabinoids a number of years ago, this is no longer the case.

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