Synthetic drugs under US Senate investigation

A selection of the 'Spice' stimulants is pictured in a shop in north London, on Aug. 28, 2009. The US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control is investigating the growing use of 'Spice' and other synthetic drugs, which are growing in popularity.
A selection of the 'Spice' stimulants is pictured in a shop in north London, on Aug. 28, 2009. The US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control is investigating the growing use of 'Spice' and other synthetic drugs, which are growing in popularity. Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

A dozen midshipmen have been kicked out of the US Naval Academy for using the synthetic marijuana known as “spice” or "K2." More than 150 Navy sailors have also been accused of using the drug, which is banned in the military. Now, a US Senate hearing is investigating the growing use of “spice” and the fake cocaine known as “bath salts.”

In 2009, poison control centers nationwide reported just 14 calls about synthetic marijuana. But last year the number exploded to nearly 3,000.

Erica Leary runs a community anti-drug group, the North Coastal Prevention Coalition, near San Diego. She told the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control that genuine pot and alcohol are still the drugs of choice in southern California.

"But 'spice' is viewed as a convenient alternative, especially for those who are likely to be subjected to random drug tests, since it does not show up on standard tests," she said.

Mike Rozga told Senators he knew nothing about synthetic pot until his teenage son shot himself after smoking “K2” and becoming despondent.

"We talked to our sons numerous times about not using drugs, no texting and driving, no drinking until you are 21 and certainly no drinking and driving," he said. "It never occurred to us to talk to our sons of things we had never heard. Our message now as we speak to young people is simple: do not inhale, do not inject and do not ingest anything."

Rozga and his family have created a website to help parents find information about the substances: k2drugfacts.com.

Last month, the US Drug Enforcement Agency used its temporary scheduling authority to put "K2" and “bath salts” on its illegal drugs list. A bill co-sponsored by US Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California would permanently ban the chemicals used in “spice” and “bath salts” and double the length of time that the DEA can enforce a temporary ban on new drugs.

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