Expert: ‘Fake marijuana’ use by teens cause for concern


marijuanaBy Karen Billing

Staff Writer

One Carmel Valley mother said she was officially “freaked” when she heard her 16-year-old son’s friend talking about the high he got from a synthetic marijuana called “spice,” a legal drug in the United States sold in head shops in San Diego.

“I was really kind of blown away because I hadn’t known kids in Carmel Valley were doing it,” said the mother, who asked to remain nameless. “It’s really widespread because it’s legal, it’s easy to get and they think it can’t hurt you.”

The mother said teens should think twice before using spice, also called “K2,” as she said the unknown chemical contents in this “fake marijuana” is much worse than actual marijuana.

Joseph Olesky, who runs the Recovery Education Alcohol Drug Instruction (READI) program at San Dieguito Union High School District, said that “spice” is something that they are seeing more of in North County high schools.

“It’s really on the uprise right now and I’m getting very, very concerned,” Olesky said. “We need to put this chemical to rest because it’s hurting a lot of kids.”

Called gold or silver spice or K2, it is an herbal and chemical product that mimics the effects of cannabis when smoked. It is illegal in many European countries, but is still legal here, sold in head shops as incense but you have to be 18 to purchase it.

Spice contains the chemical analgesic JWH-018, which produces affects similar to marijuana’s THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). According to a study by the Journal of Occupation Medicine and Toxicology, the chemical can be attributed to agitation, elevated heart rates, hallucinations, seizures and vomiting.

While some effects are not normally associated with low to moderate marijuana use, some are seen with high dosages of marijuana.

“This is nasty stuff,” Olesky said, noting the drug is dangerous because the amount of chemicals going into spice are unregulated.

“Using it is like playing Russian roulette,” said the concerned Carmel Valley mom.

Equally concerning to Olesky is that the drug does not show up on drug tests.

Another drug that will not show up on drug tests that parents should be aware of is mephedrone.

“This is really becoming popular,” said Olesky of mephedrone, also called “drone” or “meph,” or “meow.”

Mephedrone is a chemically-based drug and a variation of cathinone, found in the khat plant of eastern Africa. It comes in the form of powder that teenagers will snort, sprinkle on their marijuana or take it with other pills, Olesky said. Its effects are similar to ecstasy, amphetamines or cocaine.

The drug is legal and is also sold at head shops as plant food.

How are kids finding out about these variations of drugs? Olesky said that there is a website called “The Hive” that promotes all the new underground drugs.

Olesky said the San Dieguito Union High School District has blocked the site on district computers and parents might consider doing the same on home computers.

To help parents continue to be informed, READI will hold a parent seminar on Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m. at Canyon Crest Academy. Guest speaker Phillip Hubbs of PRONASA (Proactive Network Against Substance Abuse) will address teen drug use trends and what to look out for.

For more information, visit the READI website at