There’s an issue troubling our troops and military officials of all branches. United States troops are using “spice”, a synthetic marijuana substance, at a very high and alarming rate. The Las Vegas Sun has reported the usage rates and the struggle for officials to find a solution. With effects ranging from a “basic high” to week-long delusions, an answer must be found quickly.
The military has started to take spice usage head on by implementing more rigorous drug testing and more alert investigations. So far the new tactics have resulted in the investigation of over 1,100 suspected users.
“You can just imagine the work that we do in a military environment,” said Mark Ridley, deputy director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, adding, “you need to be in your right mind when you do a job. That’s why the Navy has always taken a zero tolerance policy toward drugs.”
This year over 700 Marines and sailors were investigated for spice use. The military has a very cut and dry way of dealing with those using the fake pot or any other illicit substance. They throw them out. A statistically sound number of those involved and dismissed is not obtainable since the Army, nor the Navy, keep track of all of spice investigations or dismissals.
Two years ago, only 29 Marines and sailors were investigated for Spice. This year, the number topped 700, the investigative service said. Those found guilty of using Spice are kicked out, although the Navy does not track the overall number of dismissals.
The Air Force has punished 497 airmen so far this year, compared to last year’s 380, according to figures provided by the Pentagon. The Army does not track Spice investigations but says it has medically treated 119 soldiers for the synthetic drug in total.
Military officials report that those involved are a small representation of the service member community and were not believed to be high during duty. Of course that has to be debatable, especially since they also report delusions that have lasted up to a week.
The packets usually say the ingredients are not for human consumption but also tout them as “mood enhancing.”…Spice is made up of exotic plants from Asia like Blue Lotus and Bay Bean. Their leaves are coated with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but are five to 200 times more potent.
The fact that urine specimens were not tested for the chemical combination found in spice made the decision of use easier versus that of natural marijuana. Drug testing companies are looking for new ways to detect the synthetic chemicals…
Manufacturers are adapting to avoid detection, even on the new tests, and skirt new laws banning the main chemicals.
The military can calibrate its equipment to test for those five banned chemicals “but underground chemists can keep altering the properties and make up to more than 100 permutations,” Surette said.
Last month 28 sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan were dismissed by order of U.S. Third Fleet. In October, only a month prior, 64 sailors were under investigation from the same Fleet, this time aboard the floating dry dock Arco and the USS Carl Vinson.
The substance may be illegal, but the some 200 chemicals are still legal and fairly unknown in their effects on the human brain and body.
A Clemson University created many of the chemicals for research purposes in 1990s. They were never tested on humans.
The drug has been compared to angel dust by Navy investigators because of the variation from batch to batch. Like a fingerprint, no two batches are the same.
Spice use is a problem throughout many branches of the military but it would seem as though only the Navy is scrambling to squash usage.
It produced a video based on cases to warn sailors of the drug’s dangers and publicized busts of crew members on some of its most-storied ships, including the USS Carl Vinson, from which Osama bin Laden’s was dropped into the sea.
Lt. Commander Donald Hurst is a fourth year psychiatry resident at San Diego’s Naval Medical Center. He said the hospital has seen more cases than any other facility in the country. He also reported that the drug would create a schizophrenic stupor in some of its users.
Hurst decided to investigate and analyze 10 cases. Some of the spice smokers also smoked marijuana and drank alcohol. His findings will come as no shock to those following the rise and fall of popular “legal pot.”
Of the 10, nine had lost a sense of reality. Seven babbled incoherently. The symptoms for seven of them lasted four to eight days. Three are believed to now be schizophrenic. Hurst believed the drug may have triggered the symptoms in people with that genetic disposition. His findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in October.
Doctors saw users experiencing bad reactions once a month, but now see them weekly. Users suffer everything fromvomiting, elevated blood pressure and seizures to extreme agitation, anxiety and delusions.
Synthetic marijuana has been banned in over 40 states across the country, but remains easy to obtain. The substance is available in convenient stores, bars, to gas stations…to the internet. While consumption of the substance by anyone raises concern, use by troops and sailors is a little surprising.
Synthetic marijuana is a mysterious substance. Drawing attention to the fact that these chemicals were not tested on humans, what is necessary now is more research of the drugs and observation of its users, in the least.
What the research has confirmed, he said, is: “These are not drugs to mess with.”
Image Via Addiction Inbox