Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council

Other Drugs

Synthetic Marijuana & Salvia Divinorum

Synthetic Marijuana

A smokable herbal blend that provides a marijuana-like high, synthetic marijuana has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults. Selling under brand names such as “K2,” “Spice,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn,” synthetic marijuana is labeled as “incense” to mask its intended purpose. It is legally sold in 42 states including Connecticut.

The so-called incense can be bought in a variety of retail outlets, head shops, and over the internet. Gas stations and corner stores in certain areas around Connecticut are stocking it. The product consists of plant material coated with various compounds of manufactured chemicals. None of these chemicals has been approved by the FDA for human consumption. There is no oversight of the manufacturing process.

The synthetic compounds work on the brain in the same way as marijuana’s active ingredient THC. They bind to the CB1 receptors, which primarily affect the central nervous system. JWH-018 also binds to peripheral brain receptors involved in the immune system. The synthetic compounds are about ten times more active than THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They have never been tested in human subjects.

Side effects noted by users of synthetic marijuana include hallucinations, sleepiness, reduced blood pressure or elevated blood pressure, vomiting, delusions, and increased agitation.

On November 24, 2010, the DEA notified the public through the Federal Register of their intent to temporarily control five synthetic cannabinoid chemicals: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, 1R,3S, CP-47-,497, 1R-3S, CP-47,497 (see DEA website for further information). The Controlled Substances Act requires the DEA to publish a Notice of Intent for at least 30 days before issuing a Final Order. Currently, the DEA is working to finalize that order, which will be published in the Federal Register.

Salvia Divinorum

Salvia is a green leafy plan that is part of the mint family. Sometimes called Sage, Sally D, or Magic Mint, or packaged under the brand name “Ecstacy” (with two c’s), salvia produces an intense, hallucinogenic high when smoked or consumed. The plant can only be grown in tropical climates. The garden version common to New England does not have hallucinogenic properties.

Salvia use is on the rise because it is legal, relatively inexpensive, and cannot be detected by the usual drug screenings. Users hope to be placed in a mild psychotic state for a short time. However, many people experience intense hallucinations that leave them dazed, confused, and frightened. Short-term effects include hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, the inability to understand sights and sounds, loss of coordination, dizziness, slurred speech, appearance of sleepwalking, dysphoria (opposite of euphoria), and possibly loss of consciousness.

Long term effects are largely unknown as there have been no long-term studies of salvia use. Many scientists, however, believe that long term use may lead to such serious consequences as depression, suicidal tendencies, and schizophrenia-like symptoms.

Salvia divinorum is legal in most states. States now banning the substance include Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia. A ban on salvia is under consideration by the State of Connecticut as well.

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