There has been a lot of "buzz" about this stuff out there lately. K2, Spice Diamond, Spike99, EzIncense, are to name a few that are out there. I wanted to post a few things for people to know about this stuff.
Recreational use of these substances has been growing in popularity. The chemicals are spread on random plant material and packaged sometimes as fragrant, mood affecting incense. Compared to the natural marijuana market though, these synthetics are fairly uncommon.
The human body produces endogenous cannabinoids and the cannabis plant produces exogenous cannabinoids. We have a complex cannabinoid receptor system throughout our bodies. Marijuana contains a variety of unique cannabinoids that bind with these receptors. Synthetic cannabinoids have been created to study the receptor system in animals and humans.
Some of these compounds have been sold to the public and federal authorities seem to be cracking down on the newfound legal high. The Food and Drug Administration or FDA insists that sale for human consumption is not approved.
Jahan Marcu is currently conducting research at Temple University and is one of the few cannabinoid scientists in America. He was familiar with Spice.
“There are a variety of cannabinoids… there are the classical plant cannabinoids that most of us are familiar with; they’re known as tri-cyclic cannabinoids like THC or Marinol. The JWH-018 is a very new compound, it was synthesized in 1998 and it belongs to an ‘indol’ family of cannabinoids. And these indol derivatives have been very powerful research tools in the last decade and have really advanced cannabinoid science. There are hundreds if not thousands of these synthesized cannabinoids.”
Somehow a few of those compounds made it from the labs onto the streets and not just in the US, but also around the world.
“When we see these things starting to appear in designer drugs or herbal (products) it is a concern because not much is known about these compounds. They are very new and are used to test receptor function.”
Marcu explained that JWH-018 is a standard ingredient, but not the only thing in Spice.
Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of national NORML and a respected author on the topic of cannabinoids. We spoke with him yesterday. Paul explained that the frontal lobe of the brain has a dense concentration of CB1 cannabinoid receptors. The JWH-018 and other synthetic cannabinoids are likely activating those receptors.
But if you smoked these synthetics would you pass a workplace or other current, standard drug screen?
This fact may be the real reason behind the drug’s growing appeal. Users are beating the system at it’s own game. Unlike the tens of millions of regular marijuana consumers in the country, the synthetic users are legally and in full privacy, activating their cannabinoid receptors at will. The cost of introducing a new set of screening to the drug tests administered nationwide would be hefty.
Though it may seem like a clean getaway for the Spicers there are some serious unknowns. The most pressing questions regard the untested impact long-term ingestion of these synthetic cannabinoids can have on individuals.
We have 6,000 years of humans ingesting natural marijuana. We know that natural cannabis is non-toxic and can call it ‘safe’ for most individuals using it for medication or recreation. But humans have been using these new chemicals for less than 15 years.
Cannabinoid researcher Marcu points out that Spice and K2 are not a consistent product by any means, even with their main ingredient.
“In Japan they surveyed over 40 herbal preparations on the market and JWH-018 ranged from 2.0 to over 35 milligrams in a gram of this ‘spice’ substance. So it varies widely.”
But for community leaders and potential users of this new drug the question is of safety.
“We don’t know,” Marcu said. “There is just so little known about these compounds. The actual compound could be safe but the metabolites could somehow be pharmacologically active.”
Both Amrentano and Marcu pointed out several different scientifically generated synthetic cannabinoids, hundreds in fact. Marcu said even with current crackdown on JWH-018, law enforcement would have a difficult time keeping all of these synthetic cannabinoid derivatives off of the street.
Marijuana reform advocates point to the rise in popularity of Spice as another unfortunate by-product of natural cannabis prohibition.