Synthetic herbal drug poses big health risks

Synthetic herbal drug poses big health risks

Synthetic herbal drug poses big health risks


by KGW Staff

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Posted on June 18, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 18 at 7:48 PM

VANCOUVER – On Wednesday morning, a young man drove his car through a Vancouver home. Police said the suspect was high on a drug called ‘Spice.’

Although officials say the synthetic marijuana-like drug is extremely dangerous, it’s legal to buy it in stores.

‘Spice’ is the original name of the substance, but it goes by many names and can include a variety of ingredients.

More: Suspect high on 'Spice' plows through Vancouver home 

The reason it’s legal to buy Spice is because it’s marketed as potpourri or herbs not for human consumption.

But sellers and buyers know better.

“Smoking it – you don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Vancouver Police Officer Jeff Starks, a drug recognition expert.

Starks says he’s seen many people who were high on the synthetic drug.

“I think, maybe in their minds, it may be less harmful than saying, ‘I smoked marijuana,’” he said. “But these are chemicals you’re smoking and ingesting in your body.”

‘Spice’ can create a powerful high, but it can also cause hallucinations, seizures and kidney damage.

“We call them synthetic cannabinoids,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, the Clark County Public Health Officer.

Melnick says the drug is made by spraying synthetic chemicals on dried herbs, posing as marijuana.

“They speed up your heart, give you shortness of breath,” he said. “Some people have died from the use of these substances.

Although it’s dangerous, people can still purchase the substance online, at head shops and even some convenience stores.

Police say the manufacturers keep changing the names and ingredients just enough to avoid legal problems.

“They’ve got different names for it -- fake weed, Yucatan fire, solar fire moon rock,” said Starks. “Twenty-one different names, so they’re skirting the law by doing that.”

On Wednesday, KGW went to two head shops in Vancouver. One said they don’t sell substances like ‘Spice.’ Another said they had what they called an “herbal blend” that was natural.

They wouldn’t show the substance to KGW.

Health experts say people should avoid all synthetic substances like Spice, and make sure to talk to kids about staying away from them, too.

KGW Reporter Tim Gordon contributed to this report.