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News Link • Drugs and Medications

High Science: Synthetic Marijuana Is Legal, and It Might Get You High -- But Is It Safe?

• via Yahoo! News
 Valley smoke shops usually stock tons of herbal incense blends (including K2, pictured) that people smoke to get high.
By Niki D'Andrea Thursday, Aug 19 2010
Anthony Jones grabs a pinch of fluffy green herbs and stuffs it into the bowl of his glass pipe. The pipe, decorated with bright orange, wavy lines, is coated on the inside with layers of thick, dark resin.

It's well used. Jones empties the bowl with one long, hard draw and blows out a cloud of thick, white, musty smoke. "That was my fourth bowl today," he says, packing a fifth.

It's nearly noon on a Tuesday, and Jones says he's been getting high for the past two hours. He feels as though he's smoked several bowls of high-grade marijuana, but what he's really been smoking are "herbal incense blends," commonly known as "spice," that contain various synthetic cannabinoids — chemical compounds made in research labs that produce effects similar to Delta-9 tetrahydracannabinol (better known as THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Jones started smoking spice regularly about a year ago. He works in the head shop industry and heard about it from co-workers. Because spice was widely available on the Internet and head shops around town, he didn't hesitate to try it.

The first time Jones smoked spice, he said it hit him like a punch in the face. "I was amazed," he says. "I was just warm all over and really, really high. My head was hot, and my ears were burning. It was like smoking chronic. I was like, 'Holy shit, this stuff really works!'"

Twelve months and several pounds of spice later, Jones is pretty sure the stuff isn't safe. It gets him high, but he says it also gives him headaches, stiff muscles, and on two occasions, temporary loss of vision. Once, he smoked such a high dose of synthetic cannabinoids that he found himself crawling around on all fours and vomiting.

Despite the pattern of ill side effects, Jones continues to smoke anywhere from an eighth- to a quarter-ounce of spice every day. It has replaced marijuana as his drug of choice because it's still legal in Arizona and it won't show up on a test for pot. But he also thinks he may be addicted to it.

"My tolerance to this stuff has become unbelievable," Jones says. "With weed, I can take one or two hits, and I'll always reach a point where I'm like, 'I'm good.' And I'll put the pipe down. With spice, I'll smoke it all day long, bowl after bowl. I have to smoke more and more to get the same high."
(note: there are five pages to this story! - Ed)

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