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WJBD - Health & Fitness News - The K-2 Epidemic: How it Works

An empty package of 'Darkness' brand Synthetic Marijuana discovered in front of the WJBD Studio on Wednesday.

The K-2 Epidemic: How it Works

By Rob Sussman, WJBD News

Check out the first part of WJBD's three-part series on Synthetic Marijuana right HERE.

The Synthetic Marijuana is a commonly abused drug in Marion County whose popularity only seems to be growing. To highlight the effects of the drug on the user, as well as the community at large, WJBD presents the second in a series of stories on the Synthetic Marijuana Epidemic.

When Becky Huffine's 14 year son collapsed by the side of the road after a seizure brought on by smoking Synthetic Marijuana on his way to school, he was rushed to the hospital, where doctors told Becky that they had no medical explanation of the seizure. The drug did not turn up on any test results. Doctors were stumped, and her son was released without closure.

But how did the drug fool the doctors tests? According to the Director of Pharmacy at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Mike Crider, it has to do with the nature of the compounds used in the drug. The compounds used in the drugs vary, and are difficult to detect.

"A number of these compounds have been classified as Schedule 1 drugs--meaning they are illegal to possess. The problem is, the same detection method for Marijuana would not pick up these Synthetic Compounds" Crider explained.

That's almost certainly why Doctors were left scratching their heads when Becky's son was in the Hospital. Even if doctors were able to detect the drug, there's a chance the drug they would find wouldn't be illegal. To figure out why, you have to understand the history of the drug.

"It was a synthetic compound that was made at Clemson University by Professor John W. Hoffman. He was researching Synthetic Marijuana Derivatives and their effects on Cannabinoid Receptors" Crider said.

Cannabinoid receptors are the same receptors targeted by Tetrahydrocannabinoid, or THC--the active ingredient in Marijuana. However, the substances often used in Synthetic Marijuana, dubbed "JWH" compounds after Professor John W. Hoffman, have a potency several hundreds or even thousand times higher than THC. The high potency is one reason for the dangerous side effects. The JWH compounds are then sprayed on a mixture of smokable potpourri.

"There are a variety of plant herbals in [the packages]. And they're marked 'Not for Human Consumption'. But many have been sprayed with a Synthetic Compound" Crider said.

The problem with the JWH compounds is that there are hundreds of them--far too many to ban them all. And every time you ban one, another is synthesized. The result will be an almost identical drug with a different chemical composition. 

This means that drug dealers and designers are one step ahead of the Police when selling Synthetic Marijuana, creating a huge headache for the law and justice system. We'll talk to local police departments and other law enforcement personnel during the final segment in WJBD's three part series on the K-2 Epidemic on Friday.

Listen to the audio version of this story in the WJBD Audio/Visual Section.

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