This week’s cover story in Time Magazine explores the recent rise in the availability – and use – of synthetic drugs, particularly synthetic pot. Just five years ago, these drugs were virtually unknown. Today, they are proliferating at an almost frightening rate. Known by a variety of street names, such as “K2” or “Spice”, fake pot is designed by chemists to mimic the effects of marijuana while using chemical compounds that have not yet been declared illegal. Consequently, these substances are becoming increasingly available, sold openly in gas stations and convenience stores by those with little fear of prosecution. Marketed as incense or potpourri, and frequently featuring labels warning that the products are not intended for human consumption, sales are skyrocketing. Also skyrocketing are the problems associated with their use.
According to a study conducted earlier this year by the University of Colorado School of Medicine, synthetic pot produces unpredictable effects, and often-disastrous health outcomes such as delirium, seizures, and strokes. As the paper’s lead author, Andrew Monte MD, confirms, “These substances are not benign … People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be – up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.” (Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122202217.htm) Faced with the rapid proliferation of synthetic pot, legislators are looking for ways to respond. But they’ve got their work cut out for them. As soon as authorities add a compound to the prohibited list, the chemists tweak the formula—ever so slightly—to make a new substance that purports to be legal. Once again, then, the most effective response to this latest drug problem lies not with enforcement, but rather in promoting awareness and treatment (http://pacificviewrecovery.com/designer-drug-rehab/). Going after the supply side where drugs and addiction are concerned comes up short every time; not until we address the demand side of the equation can we hope to see any noticeable change.