Commentary: K2: Another drug mountain to climb

Megan Albanese, STEPS Coalition outreach manager

It is hard to turn on the news right now and not hear about what has happened in New Haven—right here in our own state. K2, a drug that originally became popular in the mid-2000s, is once again rearing its ugly head. Whatever perceptions people have of marijuana, they should never underestimate the risk of synthetic marijuana or believe it is similar or less harmful than cultivated marijuana.

Let’s first talk a little bit about synthetic cannabinoids (marijuana), the technical term for K2. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabinoid in any organic or harvested marijuana plant. The K2 drug and other synthetic cannabinoids, contain no THC whatsoever and yet claim to mimic the euphoric effects that people seek from marijuana. Drugs like this are made from chemicals and toxins that are sprayed onto plants and spices and then smoked. It is important to note that K2 is completely synthetic, so while these drugs may target the same parts of the brain and body as THC, the effects can be very different.

Synthetic cannabinoids made their debut in the mid-2000s. At that time, it was a legal alternative to marijuana and could not be traced in routine drug screens. They were packaged in small pouches and sold legally in gas stations and convenience stores everywhere. The damaging ingredients were not illegal, and manufacturers greedily put money before health.

In 2011, the DEA used emergency protocols to temporarily classify these drugs as dangerous and scheduled some of the substances found in synthetic cannabinoid products. The next year, the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act permanently placed several different classes of psychoactive substances, including many synthetic cannabinoids, into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)—the most restrictive classification; however, many manufacturers of K-2 and other synthetic cannabinoids didn’t let this stop them from creating these substances. Manufacturers were able to chemically modify the ingredients to not include the newly scheduled dangerous chemical or simply labeled the product with ‘not for human consumption.’

STEPS (Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success)
200 North Main St., Southington, CT 06489
Tel: (860) 276-6285

In October 2011, STEPS and the Southington Police Department partnered to have synthetic cannabinoids added to the list of banned substances here in town. Det. Lew Palmieri and former director of Youth Services, Sue Saucier, were instrumental in this process and knew that banning the sale was crucial to keep Southington youth and residents safe. ‘Thank you’ to the both of you.

Although K2 is banned here in Southington, it does not mean that it cannot be illegally obtained. It is also known that some youth have combined household products with herbs and spices to create their own versions of K2.

If you are a parent, Google what synthetic marijuana looks like. Keep your eyes open for drastic changes in moods or behaviors. Talk to your kids. The conversations aren’t always easy, but it could be life-saving. Know where they are and who they are with.

For more information and to ‘Stay in the Know’ please visit SouthingtonSTEPS.org . #NotInOurTown #Prevention #SouthingtonSTEPS

Megan Albanese is the Southington STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281 or albanesem@southington.org.

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