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You’ve heard of “fake weed,” no? Now you have. It’s what kids are smoking these days. It may be fake, but it’s real. A real drug with real dangers. Time to talk to them youngsters.

Fake weed, also known as K2 and “spice”, is causing hallucinations, vomiting, agitation and other dangerous side effects. Oh it gets you high, alright–but it comes with an added surprise: different responses in different people. Not since LSD have we seen that kind of shenanigans.

K2 was first designed in the organic chemistry lab of Clemson professor John W. Huffman, who studies cannabinoid receptors. Essentially these receptors are the human molecular machinery that responds to THC, the compound in marijuana. The recipe for the compound JWH-018 (his initials) got picked up likely in Europe, although he had heard that people were selling it in China and Korea as a plant growth stimulant well before people started getting high on it.

And have they ever been getting high. Apparently K2 has an affinity for cannabinoid brain receptor (CB1) that’s about 10 times greater than THC. That means it doesn’t take a whole lot to get you wasted. Good for Snoop Dog..bad for your kid.

And worse yet, it comes with unexpected side effects. As a cannabinoid receptor stimulant, one would expect it to behave like marijuana; but some of the symptoms bringing teens into hospitals after using the drug, such as increased agitation and elevated blood pressure and heart rates, didn’t match up with marijuana. Some more unusual side effects include fast heart beat, dangerously elevated blood pressure, pale skin and vomiting, which suggests that K2 is affecting the cardiovascular system. Further, it also is believed to affect the central nervous system, causing severe, potentially life-threatening hallucinations and, in some cases, seizures. Doh!

According to Huffman, “It’s like playing Russian roulette. You don’t know what it’s going to do to you; you’re a potential winner of a Darwin award,” referring to the tongue-in-cheek awards given to people who “do a service to humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool.”

Well, all I can say is…doesn’t surprise me. Think about this: when marijuana becomes legalized, as it pretty much has in California and other states, it’s non-illicit nature will not be enough for either rebel teens nor societal outcasts. Illegal booze led to the formation of the mob, illegal hallucinogenics to Woodstock, and “fake weed” will likely have its counter-culture. I’m not endorsing it, nor am I shrugging it off. I think you’ve got to talk to your kids about this stuff and hopefully steer them away from it. Since laboratory mice that JWH-018 was tested on were euthanized following experiments, nobody really knows the long-term effects. So, kids…just say no, okay?

But if the kids today are anything like those of yesteryear–and they ARE–looks like you’ll be happy if your’s merely hangs out at the local medical marijuana clinic. I see more of these designer drugs on the horizon. Wow–the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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