Teens and the dangers and side effects of synthetic marijuana and bath salts

There’s a fad sweeping the country and it’s not a good one.

Everyday the news here in Florida is inundated with stories about synthetic drugs, mainly synthetic marijuana and bath salts.  Spice, K2, Ivory Wave – they’re marketed as legal marijuana “incense” and bath salts.  And the companies and people making them are targeting our kids.  Check out the packages below:


The packages are colorful with cartoons or ‘cool’ images that attract kids.  There are all different names:  K-2, Spice, Scooby Snax, Smiley’s, WTF, and Jazz to name a few. And the contents of these packages are killing kids and tearing families apart.

I read an article this morning about a 15-year old girl who was once into sports, always got good grades, enjoyed roller skating, fishing, camping, going to movies and going on hunting trips with her dad.  She was always the center of attention, very outgoing and outspoken.  Then one day she fell into the ‘wrong’ crowd.  She started to pull away from her family.  At first, the parents gave her space, thinking she was just growing up and was going through the typical ‘teen’ withdrawals.  But her behavior became worse and after a bit of ‘investigating’, her parents discovered their daughter was into Spice and K-2.  Her parents intervened but they kept running into walls because of the availability of the drug.  Their 15-year old daughter could walk into the local convenience store across the street from her high school, plunk down a couple of bucks and walk out with this ‘legal’ concoction known to make people hallucinate, have seizures and even die.  It is very frustrating to parents, doctors and law enforcement because these packages contain chemicals that scientists don’t really know what they are.  The manufactures go and change the chemicals as soon as the authorities make them illegal, thus making the synthetic drug legal again.

Teens using the drugs say it’s okay because “it’s legal”  Drug addicts use it because  it doesn’t show up in urine tests.  Others use excuses that alcohol and prescription drug use kill people and cause seizures too, so what’s the difference?

The difference is we know what the long terms effects of alcohol and  many drugs are and have developed help centers and rehab facilities to assist addicts to overcome the addictions.  Prescription drugs are developed and studied over long periods of time and are verified as safe for legitimate use.  Known side effects are listed.  Many times drugs are discontinued because long-term problems arise after 5 – 10 years of use.  In short, the prescription drugs are regulated.  With synthetic drugs, the formulas are always changing, which makes  medical treatment sketchy.

According to Crittenton Hospital Medical Center’s Director of Pharmacy Marc Guzzardo, “Everyone must know that these synthetic marijuana chemicals are much more dangerous than the active ingredient in marijuana.  They are much more toxic, more potent, more addictive and can result in adverse health effects in just minutes after smoking. You should not assume these products are safe or legal just because they are sold in stores.”

People every day, including teens, are being admitted to emergency rooms with seizures and rapid heart rates. Other common symptoms include paranoia, agitation, hallucinations, confusion, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, vomiting, and nausea. Law enforcement officials and physicians have also reported violent behavior in people who indulge in these ‘legal’ drugs, propelling the user into violent rages that often result in physical harm to others as well as irreversible brain damage.  Many users also report their brains and/or skin feel like they’re on fire after smoking synthetic marijuana.  Because there is no oversight into the manufacturing of these ‘drugs’, the strength of the ‘spice’ can vary widely, causing users to react differently to different brands or batches. There have also been reports that these ‘legal’ drugs contain dangerous residues of heavy metals and acetone.

According to the National Institute om Drug Abuse (“NIDA”) 11.4% of high school seniors across the U.S have used synthetic marijuana.

If you are a parent and are concerned that your teen may be using synthetic drugs, watch out for rolling papers and plant materials that resemble incense or potpourri, and packages marked as bath salts.  Look for the mental and physical symptoms of use, too.  Side effects from synthetic bath salts include:

  • increased heart rate
  • agitation
  • lack of appetite
  • increased alertness and awareness
  • anxiety
  • muscle spasms
  • increased blood pressure
  • kidney failure
  • seizures
  • risk of renal failure
  • hallucinations
  • aggression
  • severe paranoia
  • panic attacks

Side effects from synthetic marijuana use include:

  • vomiting
  • loss of consciousness
  • elevated blood pressure
  • seizures
  • increased heart rate
  • agitation
  • dangerous hallucinations

Help is available if you suspect your teen is using synthetic marijuana or bath salts.  In Florida, Operation Par provides help with substance abuse problems.  Treatment varies depending on each case and the cost depends on the plan the child is enrolled in.  Sliding scales are often implemented for those on limited incomes.  There are also rehab centers across the nation who are now offering programs to teens addicted to synthetic marijuana and bath salts.