Fake Weed-Related Injuries and Deaths Break Out in Illinois

K2An outbreak of synthetic marijuana, starting in Chicago and fanning out in Illinois, has caused more than 50 cases of serious bleeding–including two deaths–and those numbers are rising.

“This is the first time we’ve seen an outbreak of this magnitude in the area,” Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, announces.

Its effects can be up to 10 times more intense than marijuana; as a result, it’s more dangerous. And its longterm effects on the brain and body are still unknown.

“Synthetic cannabinoids have been touted as ‘safe, legal’ alternatives to marijuana and other illicit substances, but they are neither,” says Gateway Lake Villa Executive Director Karen Wolownik-Albert. “Patients in treatment who are withdrawing from these unknown chemicals experience extreme agitation, language and perceptual disturbances, paranoia, hallucinations, and significant physical discomfort.”

What is synthetic marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana, often referred to as K2, consists of human-made chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material and smoked, or liquids that are vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices.

What are the signs?

  • Feeling lightheaded and having trouble walking
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation, confusion, paranoia, and panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heart rate and over-stimulation of the central nervous system

What should you do?

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Teen Drug Trends Survey: K2 Losing Popularity but Illicit Drug Use on the Upswing

k2, spice, synthetic drugsGateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment points to a new study that shows synthetic marijuana (marketed as K-2, Spice, etc.), which has been of increasing concern because of its adverse effects and high rates of use, is losing its appeal with teens. Conversely, teen drug trends indicate overall illicit drug use is trending upward—which is being driven by teens’ drug of choice: marijuana.

The Good News

The second-most popular illicit drug used in 2012 among 10th and 12th graders (after marijuana) is dropping in popularity today. In 2013, there was a highly statistically significant fall in use of K2 and Spice among high school seniors, and a significant decrease for three combined grades. According to the 2013 Monitoring the Future study:

  • Among 12th graders: 11.3 percent used K2 in 2012, which dropped to 7.9 percent in 2013.
  • Among 10th graders: 8.8 percent used K2 in 2012, which decreased to 7.4 percent in 2013.
  • Among 8th graders: 4.4 percent used K2 in 2012, which declined to 4.0 percent in 2013.

“This encouraging news regarding synthetic marijuana usage reflects a substantial win for the future health and well-being of American teens and families. It also validates how concerted efforts from local, state and national governments in cooperation with the private sector can positively affect public safety in a relatively short period of time,” says Michael Darcy, President & CEO, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment.

Likewise, research shows a sharply increasing proportion of teens in all three grades see great risk in using so-called “bath salts,” often described as “fake cocaine.” In a single year, the percent indicating that occasional use of bath salts carries great risk of harm has risen by 13, 17 and 25 percentage points in grades 8, 10 and 12, respectively.

teen drug trends, teen drug use, marijuanaThe Bad News

The proportions of students indicating any use of an illicit drug in the prior 12 months are:

  • Among 8th graders: 15 percent in 2013 compared to 13.5 percent in 2012.
  • Among 10th graders: 32 percent in 2013 compared to 30.4 percent in 2012.
  • Among 12th graders: 40 percent in 2013 compared to 39.4 percent in 2012.

These are the latest findings from the University of Michigan’s annual study funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Since 1991, the Monitoring the Future study has annually surveyed 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. secondary school students to help shed a light on teen alcohol and drug use.

For teens who struggle with substance abuse issues, Gateway Foundation offers specialized alcohol and drug treatment programs for teens while instilling healthy coping skills to assist teens with the challenging transition into adulthood. To learn more about Gateway’s free, confidential consultation, call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

1 in 9 High School Seniors Recently Smoked Synthetic Marijuana

synthetic marijuanaParents with kids in high school need to know, marijuana and synthetic marijuana like K2 and Spice are the most prevalent illicit drugs used by 12th graders, according to data from the most recent national Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. Slightly more than one-third (36.4%) of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the past year, including 11.3% who reported using synthetic marijuana, compared with less than 8% for all other illicit drugs, such as: cocaine, heroin and crystal meth.

The MTF survey also found that approximately one-fourth (24%) of 12th graders perceive a great risk for harm in trying synthetic marijuana once or twice, and one-third (33%) think there is a great risk for harm in using the drug occasionally, compared to 15% and 21%, respectively, for marijuana. Previous research on high school students has shown that students’ perceived risk is related to their likelihood of using a drug.

adolescent drug and alcohol abuse

Download Gateway Foundation’s Substance Abuse Prevention Guide for Parents

About Monitoring the Future

Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes and values of American secondary school students, college students and young adults. Each year, a total of approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students are surveyed (12th graders since 1975, and 8th and 10th graders since 1991). The Monitoring the Future Study has been funded under a series of research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. MTF is conducted at the Survey Research Center in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

Talk. They Listen.

Research verifies that when parents talk to their kids about risks associated with alcohol and drug abuse, they are less likely to engage in drug use. Gateway Foundation offers parents free resources to keep them informed about teen drug trends and helpful guidance about talking to teens regarding substance abuse. For more information, please visit RecoverGateway.org.

What is Synthetic Marijuana or K2?

K2 Synthetic MarijuanaK2 can be produced using chemical compounds called JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200 and CP-47,497. These compounds are structured similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and can be sprayed onto varying mixtures of dried herbs, flowers and tobacco leaves. The most common consumption method is smoking.

Gateway Foundation Shares K2 Clinical Discoveries

Individuals in substance abuse treatment at Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment have confirmed the dangerous effects of K2 use, such as:

Hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety and over-activation of the central nervous system (e.g., elevated temperature, rapid heartbeat) are common. An individual who used K2 reported he felt as though his heart was pounding so intensely it would explode.

Some users report a sensation that can only be best described as a temporary paralysis of motor movement. For example, an individual reported he was so high from K2 that he could not tell if he was breathing anymore, but was clearly conscious.

Some users report significant agitation and aggression when coming off of K2 or when hey are eager for their next fix; others may not have this experience at all.

K2 users who were otherwise completely free of suicidal thoughts said they became suicidal after using K2. Users of K2 who overdosed reported blacking out, having seizures and vomiting.

Gateway Foundation offers free educational materials that highlight signs and symptoms of substance abuse as well as on-site presentations about current drug trends. For more information, please visit RecoverGateway.org or email ContactUs@RecoverGateway.org.

Red Ribbon Week: Growing Threat of Synthetic Drugs

As a resource and advocate for substance abuse recovery, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment is working to build awareness among communities regarding the dangerous health risks associated with synthetic drug use. Banned by state and federal governments, synthetic drugs like K2 and bath salts have proven to be a threat to public health and safety.

K2 and Bath SaltsIn 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to K2 and bath salts. In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. To help reverse this trend, on July 10, 2012, President Obama signed a law banning more than two dozen of the most common chemicals used to make synthetic drugs.

Gateway Foundation believes that communicating the dangerous and damaging effects of synthetic drugs like K2 and bath salts through public awareness and education is critical. Therefore, we offer free educational materials that highlight signs and symptoms of substance abuse as well as on-site presentations about current drug trends. For more information, please visit RecoverGateway.org or email ContactUs@RecoverGateway.org.

Gateway Foundation Warns K2 is Bad News: K2 Poses Serious Health Risks

Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment has a simple message for adults and teens: stay away from synthetic marijuana also known as K2  and Spice to avoid its harmful effects, such as seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, vomiting or even death from overdose. Although synthetic marijuana was banned for sale in Illinois stores earlier this year, adults and teens are still accessing K2 and it concerns the treatment team at Gateway Foundation.

K2 and Spice are two popular brands of synthetic marijuana, however the high these products induce is completely unpredictable, which is actually part of the appeal for risk takers. Some brands of synthetic marijuana may result in a slightly mellow feeling while others may create significant psychological distress. Even within the same brand, the effects may vary from packet to packet.

“Some of the initial appeal of K2 is that it isn’t often tested for and therefore rarely detected in urinary drug tests. However, the clinical team at Gateway Foundation has observed the life-altering effects of this unpredictable drug and K2 is not worth any of the health risks that are associated with its use,” explains Gateway Foundation Springfield Program Director and Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Brittany Ottino.

Gateway Foundation has noticed a trend in increased admissions for K2 abuse since fall 2011. Individuals in substance abuse treatment at Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment confirm the effects of K2 use, such as:

Hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety and over-activation of the central nervous system (e.g., elevated temperature, rapid heartbeat) are common. One individual reported he felt as though his heart was pounding so intensely it would explode.

Some users report a sensation that can only be best described as a temporary paralysis of motor movement. For example, one individual reported he was so high that he could not tell if he was breathing anymore, but was clearly conscious.

Some K2 users report significant agitation and aggression when coming off of K2 or when they are eager for their next fix; others may not have this experience at all.

K2 users who were otherwise completely free of suicidal thoughts said they became suicidal after using K2.

Users of K2 who overdosed reported blacking out, having seizures and vomiting.

“People who have tried K2 seem to either get very scared by the effects of the drug, to the extent they won’t use it again, or they are so excited about its effects they will go to extreme measures if need be  to use it again,” explains Dr. Ottino

To learn more about K2 and signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana use, please visit RecoverGateway.org.

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