By Dr. Meredith Throop, Places for People Medical Director
In the past week you may have heard about a high number of overdoses in downtown St. Louis attributed to K2, or synthetic marijuana.
Our organization’s outreach team went downtown last week to gather information firsthand. Unfortunately, this is not our first experience with synthetic marijuana, a similar situation involving “bad batches” of the drug impacted our community in February.
You may ask why is this important to a community mental health center?
The health of the people we serve is paramount to our mission and vision. We are focused on the recovery and healthy outcomes for every person with whom we are privileged to serve.
People living with severe mental illness sometimes use substances such as drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. Self-medication is never ideal, and becomes an even greater concern when substances as inexpensive, dangerous and readily available as K2 are involved.
Out of concern for our clients’ well-being, Places for People has responded to recent events by redoubling our efforts to educate our staff and the people we serve about the dangers of synthetic marijuana.
We have attempted to clarify misconceptions about synthetic marijuana, which is anything but natural.
We shared these informational items from Spice Addiction Support with our staff and the people we serve:
- Inside the packages are usually chopped, dried plant material. However, the active chemicals are sprayed onto this plant material. Any given batch may contain up to 200 different chemicals (and the amounts of these chemicals, and which chemicals contained, is highly variable!
- The effects of smoking (or “vaping”) this drug can range from a typical “high”, to more extreme reactions such as intense paranoia and fear, hallucinations, delusions, agitation/anxiety, de-realization (not knowing who, or where, they are), loss of control, lack of response to pain.
- The physical response can include severe dehydration, seizures, vomiting, an inability to regulate body temperature, blood pressure, or heart rate, kidney failure, or even death (even with first use!)
- The effect it will have can vary from person to person, manufacturer to manufacturer, and batch to batch.
- Roughly 50 of these chemicals have been made illegal, although the creators of these chemicals tend to stay “one step ahead”, by simply changing the chemical structure in the slightest amount.
- This is a very addictive drug! Users of this drug refer to having withdrawal effects for up to one week, even after just one use. Many report cravings for years after cessation.
- Some describe this drug as resembling a combination of crack cocaine, heroin, and PCP (in its effects, as well as addictive properties).
For more information about Synthetic Marijuana, or for addiction support and resources for people seeking support with their dependency on the drug, please visit http://spiceaddictionsupport.org.