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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Synthetic drugs draw ire from authorities in US

    MEMPHIS – Beyond the Grateful Dead posters, lava lamps and candles, area head shops are doing a booming business in products labeled as “incense,” but often sold with the purchase of roll-your-own papers.

    With names like “Spice,” “Bee,” “Pulse” and “Damiana,” the so-called incense is a chemically concocted version of marijuana’s active ingredient, sold alongside a synthetic version of cocaine with names like “Charge,” “Snow Blow” or “XXX.”

    Banned in much of Europe, the synthetic products began showing up in volume in the United States last year. Used in large amounts, they could cause health problems from reduced immune system response to heart attack, according to a doctor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

    At Whatever, a shop near the University of Memphis campus, manager James Sexton said he first heard of the products through teenagers who discovered them on the Internet and from soldiers who had heard of the drugs while in boot camp on military bases.

    “Apparently, they were big in Biloxi (Miss.),” Sexton said. Soon, about 20 distributors were vying to sell the drugs locally, he said.

    The products also drew the attention of General Sessions Court Judge Tim Dwyer, head of the Shelby County Drug Court. Dwyer said the court is monitoring 250 people in a drug rehabilitation program and “got wind that some of the clients were skirting the rules.”

    Dwyer said those in treatment are randomly tested for drugs, but the drug test facility in California warned that while marijuana can be detected 30 days after use, synthetic variations of marijuana and cocaine break down quickly and can’t be traced. With help from an informant, Dwyer said 10 people were terminated from the drug treatment program through photographs identifying them as purchasers of the drugs at area head shops.

    Dwyer has asked state Sen. Reginald Tate to sponsor a bill banning the drugs in Tennessee. The bill passed 32-0 in the Senate on March 8 and now is awaiting approval in the House. Tate said a final signature by Gov. Phil Bredeson could turn manufacture, possession or distribution of the drugs into a misdemeanor by July.

    At another head shop – Wizards – the products are displayed in a case where a steady stream of customers asked for them by name this week. One woman, who declined to give her name, said she had bought Spice once before.

    “I think I felt something,” she said.

    At UTHSC, Dr. Steven Gurley, research assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said the synthetic cannabanoids that mimic marijuana attach to receptors in the central nervous system and the immune system, but primarily to the immune system receptors.
    “So there’s a possibility of greatly reduced immune function along with impairment of the cognitive process,” he said.

    Gurley said the active ingredient in synthetic cocaine is structurally more similar to methamphetamines than to cocaine, with possible side effects including rapid heartbeat, anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, hallucinations and addiction.

    He said another danger with both products is a lack of FDA regulation, raising questions of contamination and other quality controls. Most of the products have been traced to manufacturers in Korea and China, he said.

    Scripps Howard News Service
    Sunday, April 11, 2010



  1. BloodyMuffin
    So they kicked people out of rehab because they used these products? I could understand where they might have an issue with people using if they were there of their own accord to try and break a habit, but i would imagine that at least a few of these people were there due to it being the only option other than jail after a marijuana bust. in that case, they're being kicked out and probably sent to jail for using a legal product. that's just stupid.
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