FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Spice is a three-time loser. The hype and the appeal of Spice is based on falsehoods, at least three of them. The synthetic compound known as Spice, K2 and other names, is packaged as incense, and sold as a substitute for marijuana. Spice contains a chemical compound similar to pot. The drug, Spice, has been marked a three-time loser by the legal team at the U.S. Army Alaska Staff Judge Advocate.

Spice is marketed online and in head shops as a legal product; a safe product; a product that is undetectable at urinalysis. Spice is not legal, not safe and it is no longer undetectable at urinalysis, according to a USARAK SJA newsletter.

A policy available on the USARAK website identifies the THC-mimicking substance as illegal. Over the past year, smokable herbal blends marketed as being "legal" and providing a marijuana-like high, have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, the DEA news release stated.

These products consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. These chemicals, however, have not been approved by the FDA for human consumption and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process. Brands such as "Spice," "K2," "Blaze" and "Red X Dawn" are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.

Soldiers using Spice have been admitted to the emergency room after having "dangerous, potentially life-threatening reactions" due to use of Spice. A special urine test for chemicals found in Spice is available and individual testing of USARAK Soldiers is an option for Army leaders who have reason to believe a Soldier is under the influence.

Tests are available for the chemicals found in Spice at two civilian laboratories now. Armed Forces Medical Examiner System plans to begin testing urine for Spice in early 2011. Currently, unit-wide testing is cost prohibitive; individual tests cost $50 to $90, so random testing for an entire unit is cost prohibitive, wrote the SJA in their newsletter. A handout was issued to Army leaders earlier this month, urging them to brief their Soldiers that "The ultimate goal of all Army drug testing programs is deterring Soldiers from using illegal drugs." Leaders are warned that they must have probable cause to conduct testing.

The SJA is available to advise Army leaders who wish to conduct testing in cases where the command suspects an individual Soldier of using Spice. Evidence handling and the likelihood that military judges will likely closely scrutinize the first Spice cases are among the top issues for command consideration.

Ron Huffman, Fort Wainwright's Army Substance Abuse Program, said the U.S. Army Alaska's command has taken initiative in urine for the chemicals in Spice.

Huffman said he applauds the commanding general's forward-leaning position on testing.
ASAP will likewise lead, train as needed and assist unit prevention leaders in Soldier urine testing.

The Army's drug and alcohol testing programs are not meant to punish, but rather as a deterrent, Huffman said.

The dangerous synthetics have been warned against human consumption, by their creator, Dr. John Huffman (no relation) calling the cannabinoids, "toxic."

No one knows what the long-term affect of using synthetic cannabinoids will be for smokers, said Ron Huffman, but if the synthetic ingredients act as the ingredient in marijuana, Huffman said, effects could build up over time, or be "cumulative."

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued an emergency order in November declaring the chemical compounds found in Spice and other, similar compounds ingredients to be illegal. According to the DEA website, they will be designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category, which is reserved for unsafe, highly abused substances with no medical usage.

Since 2009, the DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products. A U.S. Navy report states that manufacturers of fake pot use Spice as the "gold standard," by which their "newer" and "more powerful" products are compared. But these products aren't quality controlled and consumers could easily be purchasing benign oregano, or other garden-variety herbs, as well as the potential for deadly levels of toxins in the product.

"German reports indicate Spice may have adverse effects on the heart, circulation, the nervous system, and in some cases could cause panic attacks and is potentially addictive." Herbal incense can have unpredictable and violent results, the USN report stated, noting service members have become unconscious and unresponsive while using the drug; at other times, personnel have become paranoid or violent.

Other synthetic compounds are gaining popularity amongst Soldiers, some hallucinogenic, such as Salvia. Household materials, fuel, cleaning supplies, all have also been used or abused by Soldiers to alter their mental state. The "high" may be temporary, but the potential effects to health, quality of life and military record could be forever.

Make the choice to stay away from the three-time loser, Spice. Not safe. Not legal. Not undetectable.