Synthetic Drugs: The War on Drugs Opens Market to Deadlier Substances

K2, Spice, Bath Salts; In 2008, synthetic drugs by a variety of names began appearing on the streets in the United States. More specifically, these are the names of synthetic cannabinoids, man-made chemicals sprayed on to plants and used to achieve a “legal” high.

What many may not know is that under DEA regulations, synthetic drugs are illegal, and more importantly, they can be incredibly deadly.

One example of the consequences of using Spice is the story of Connor Reid, a 19-year-old who died after using synthetic marijuana with his friends. It is reported that after taking a hit of this synthetic drug, Connor fell into a coma and four days later was declared completely brain dead.

While this may not be the typical case when examining the usage of synthetic drugs, it is hardly rare. In April, a particularly bad batch of Spice poisoned nearly 200 people and killed one in Colorado.

Synthetic drugs are often marketed as only for chemical research use and are “strictly not for human consumption,” which often leaves the legal onus on the authorities to prove that those who would sell synthetic drugs know they are doing so for human consumption.

To make matters more complicated, when one drug is criminalized, the chemical formula is altered, allowing it to be sold legally again. This pervasiveness and ease with which drugs can be bought is one factor that causes such high usage rates among youth.

Often shops that sell these drugs, labelled as potpourri or incense, may not know the danger that they are placing on consumers. In fact, even a cursory Google search yields a number a websites on which you can buy Spice and have it shipped to your home.

In 2012, it was reported that 12th graders use synthetic marijuana or Spice only second to marijuana itself. That statistic is alarming enough before people consider that many users of Spice may not know exactly what they are in for.

National concern has been raised in the wake of deaths related to the usage of synthetic marijuana and teens who do not understand the dangers of using it. Use of Spice can often result in poisoning as the manufacturing of these drugs is in no way regulated and often does not even take place in the United States. reports that in 2012, 51 new synthetic cannabinoids were identified in the United States. The majority of these synthetic drugs are manufactured in China and India and then marked for sale in the United States to take advantage of growing drug markets.

Many users tend to think that they are getting a safer and legal high, but the reality could not be further from the truth. While there is not yet enough data to suggest that legalization of marijuana has had any effect on the use of synthetic drugs (due to limited data), what remains clear is that distributors have found a market in the United States and will continue to abuse legal loopholes to get these drugs on the streets.

Given the evasive nature of these new stimulants, one must ask if it is even worth attempting to regulate the manufacturing and sale of synthetic drugs at all.

There is good data to suggest that criminalizing drugs does nothing to curb their usage and costs taxpayers millions of dollars per year. While voters will take up ballot initiatives in several states in 2016 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it may soon be time to reconsider the drug enforcement policies of the United States as a whole.

Photo Source: AP