By David Newsom
As cannabis law reform proposals continue to make local headlines, another and potentially more dangerous substance is leaving its mark on the San Diego community. A synthetic cannabis product popularly known as Spice has infiltrated the nation under the guise of “herbal incense;” and according to researchers at the American Psychiatric Association, the chemicals used to mimic a marijuana-like high can cause psychosis in some users.
Because Spice is easy to obtain and as yet untraceable through conventional urine tests, use of the product among members of the military has become a mounting concern for government officials and medical doctors alike. Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that ten patients at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego were hospitalized for psychosis after using Spice – and their symptoms, which ranged from auditory and visual hallucinations to paranoia, delusions and suicidal thoughts, lasted anywhere from five days to three months.
San Diego-based naval physicians explained that, unlike THC (the quick-bonding, short-lived substance in marijuana that gives users a temporary high), the chemicals used to make Spice — such as JWH-018, CP-47 and cannabicyclohexanol — are more potent and bind themselves more permanently to receptors in the body. Not only do the drugs maintain a longer-lasting effect on the brain and other organs, they also take longer to bind to receptors than THC does – thus placing users at a high overdose risk due to delayed recognition of the drug’s effects.