Teens High on Scary 'Man-Made Marijuana'

Mystery ingredients give health officials the willies
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Mar 24, 2010 2:08 AM CDT
A three-gram package of K2, produced in China and Korea, contains herbs and spices is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.   (AP Photo/Kelley McCall))
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(Newser) – A new synthetic substance that mimics the high of marijuana—and is legal—has American teenagers buzzing. But the herb-based substance, known as K2 or Spice, is giving health authorities the willies because its ingredients and effects are largely unknown. It's made in Asia and sold online and in some stores, marketed as incense. But the bags of herbs are sprayed with a chemical that copies the high-inducing element of marijuana, THC.

"Our biggest concern is that this chemical is likely manufactured in a dorm-room setting, and these scientists are not going to be exhibiting a lot of quality assurance techniques," said the head of a poison center. A DEA official compared smoking K2 to "playing Russian roulette" because of unknown ingredients. Emergency room trips linked to K2 are on the rise and states are now debating regulation. Kansas became the first state to ban the drug, and it's already illegal in several European nations.

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