By Mindy Campbell, USAG BambergOctober 27, 2010
BAMBERG, Germany - It has the potential to be a drug counselor or parentAca,!a,,cs worst nightmare Aca,!" spice is a cheap, easy to get and currently legal drug.
Even more frightening for adults is the fact that spice, an herbal incense mixed with chemical compounds that gives a marijuana-like high, has some severe side effects and is addictive.
Military officials are beginning to worry about spice as they see an upswing in usage among Soldiers. Recently, the Army as well as Warner Barracks leadership have begun cracking down on the prohibited designer drug.
The designer drug
Spice has become increasingly popular among Soldiers on post, said Maj. Seamus Garrett, provost marshal.
From July through September, the Military Police investigated five cases involving spice. The cases included more than 25 people suspected of possession, use and distribution, Garrett said.
Spice, is a leafy green mixture of herbal and synthetic cannabinoids that, when smoked, mimics the effects of marijuana.
Readily available in tobacco shops and online, the drug is known by many names such as Spice Gold, K2, Samurai Spirit, Genie, Yucatan Fire, Mojo and Voodoo, according to a report by the Army Center for Substance Abuse Programs.
The drug is reported to cause marijuana-like effects including euphoria, giddiness, silliness, bloodshot eyes and impaired short-term memory and concentration, the report stated.
Introduced in European and Canadian smoke shops several years ago, spice is sold as incense with labels on the package that warn it is not for human consumption.
Easily obtainable, relatively cheap and often not recognized in urinalysis tests, spice is popular among Soldiers, Garrett said.
Right now, the number of spice users is relatively low, Garrett said. But, there is concern the numbers could grow.
Aca,!A"A broad-based awareness and general knowledge of this stuff combined with the fact that it is easy to obtain makes it potentially a large problem,Aca,!A? Garrett said.
The ingredients in beer Aca,!" water, malt, hops and yeast - are clearly listed on a bottle. When a person takes a sip of beer, they know what they are getting.
Aca,!A"Unfortunately, there are no ingredients listed on illicit drugs,Aca,!A? said Tonya Hancock, Army Substance Abuse Program prevention coordinator.
Designer drugs donAca,!a,,ct come with a list of ingredients on the packaging. Consequently, users often donAca,!a,,ct know what they are smoking when they open a package of synthetic cannabis.
What makes spice so dangerous, officials warn, is that both the chemical compositions and the effects vary greatly. For example, various synthetic cannabinoids can be more than 800 times more potent than the natural marijuana, the ArmyAca,!a,,cs report stated. In addition, potency can vary from package to package of spice.
Spice manufacturers often use different combinations of chemicals or substitute others to stay ahead of the law, Garrett said.
Aca,!A"You just donAca,!a,,ct know where this stuff was made, how it was made or how it will affect you physiologically once you ingest it,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"One bad hit of a different type of spice and suddenly itAca,!a,,cs a long-term issue. You just donAca,!a,,ct know.Aca,!A?
In fact, using spice may have adverse effects on the heart, circulation and the nervous system. In some cases, it could cause panic attacks, auditory and visual hallucinations, delirium, impaired coordination and is potentially addictive, the Army report stated.
Aca,!A"You take this stuff you donAca,!a,,ct know whatAca,!a,,cs in it and then you have this serious reaction or youAca,!a,,cre dead,Aca,!A? Hancock said.
Spice has now been outlawed in 13 states. In addition, several variations of synthetic cannabinoids are illegal in Germany and other European countries.
Aca,!A"The chemical compound is what determines if it is illegal or not,Aca,!A? Garrett said.
Even then, he said, manufacturers often just repackage it under different names.
The Army, as well, prohibits Soldiers from using spice. In response to the increase in usage, several commanders have issued policies explicitly banning designer drugs including spice.
While it currently doesnAca,!a,,ct specifically mention spice, Army Regulation 600-85, prohibits Soldiers from using substances - including naturally occurring substances - that are taken primarily to alter the central nervous system. Soldiers may be charged with violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is a failure to follow an order or regulation.
If caught, disciplinary actions can range from a reprimand to a dishonorable discharge.
Some Soldiers, Hancock said, try to rationalize using spice and say that it is legal.
Aca,!A"The Army says you canAca,!a,,ct use it,Aca,!A? Hancock said. Aca,!A"DonAca,!a,,ct try to rationalize it and use it. You know the rules.Aca,!A?
There are some serious consequences Aca,!" including health, financial, personal and professionally - to using spice, she said.
Aca,!A"They donAca,!a,,ct think about the long-term effects both inside and outside the military,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"What kind of discharge did you get from the military' You donAca,!a,,ct want a dishonorable discharge over something as silly as spice.Aca,!A?
Unit leaders are the most effective means to cracking down on the drug, said Garrett.
Aca,!A"We are getting calls from them saying they suspect something,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"With unit cooperation we can help with identification, collection, investigation and prosecution.Aca,!A?
Once caught, units will sit down with the Soldier and a drug counselor and decide what the best treatment option is for the Soldier, Hancock said.
Aca,!A"The Army has all these great resources like the Army Substance Abuse Program and they are all free,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"(ASAP) is a resource. This is not a punishment.Aca,!A?
Unit leaders such as the 391st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion are hoping education is the key to addressing spice, said Command Sgt. Maj. Kent Mace.
Placing more noncommissioned officers in the barracks, making sure the Soldiers practice the battle buddy system and increased number of counseling and health and welfare checks, are a few ways the unit is hoping to address the problem, Mace said.
In addition, Mace said he brought in personnel from the Criminal Investigation Division to show the unitAca,!a,,cs leadership what the drug looks like.
Aca,!A"Now we know what to look for and what the signs and symptoms are,Aca,!A? he said.
Aca,!A"Drugs, alcohol Aca,!" leave it alone or you will get in trouble.Aca,!A?
Hancock said the Army needs to become proactive in addressing this issue. That means getting the information out to the Soldiers.
Aca,!A"Education is key,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"I take my hat off to the commands. Most have come to us wanting to see presentations on spice.Aca,!A?