Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an eye-opening report discussing how the use of synthetic cannabinoids — otherwise known as synthetic marijuana — has once again exploded here in the U.S.
Indeed, the CDC report found that poison control centers in 48 states received an astounding 3,572 calls concerning synthetic cannabinoids between January and May, a 229 percent increase from the same time last year.
Closer to home, the Georgia Poison Center indicated that it received 30 calls relating to synthetic cannabinoids — most of them from emergency rooms — during the first five months of 2015, an increase of 14 calls from the same time last year.
What exactly are synthetic cannabinoids?
As you can probably surmise from the name, synthetic cannabinoids/synthetic marijuana are substances designed to mimic the effects of marijuana by lacing plant material with psychoactive chemicals.
Despite being marketed as natural or herbal products in retail establishments, the CDC calls synthetic cannabinoids “an emerging health threat.”
What makes them so dangerous?
Sold under names like K2, spice and black mamba, synthetic cannabinoids can cause users to experience such adverse health effects as agitation, elevated heart rate, confusion and vomiting. They have even been linked to 15 deaths in 2015.
Experts say they are so dangerous because there is no way for users or treating physicians to determine what kind of chemicals have been ingested, and/or how much has been ingested.
Aren’t synthetic cannabinoids illegal in Georgia?
In 2012, “Chase’s Law” went into effect in Georgia. This law, named after a 16-year-old honor student who died after ingesting synthetic cannabinoids, called for a universal ban on the substance. It did this by classifying all of the then-known ingredients in synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I drugs, such that possession of any of them is considered a felony.
Has the law failed in its objectives?
While the law has been successful to a certain degree, the manufacturers of the synthetic cannabinoids have avoided legal problems by simply changing the chemical composition of their substances.
It will be interesting to see how much of a problem this becomes here in Georgia.