Army Drug Users Twice As Likely To Use Synthetic Marijuana Over Regular Pot

By McCarton Ackerman 05/13/14

Despite being banned by the military and classified as a Schedule I drug by the government, synthetic weed like Spice and K2 has become the army's drug of choice.

spice diamond.jpg
Wiki Commons

A new study has found that the drug of choice among Army personnel is synthetic marijuana.

The study, conducted by social workers at the University of Washington and scheduled to appear in the July 2014 issue of Addictive Behaviors, found that Army drug users are twice as likely to use synthetic marijuana as regular marijuana. The drug, also known as Spice or K2, is made from shredded plant material and coated in chemicals designed to mimic THC. Part of the reason why it's become so popular among soldiers is because the drug is harder to detect in standard urine tests.

Nearly one-third of those questioned for the survey said they had used an illicit substance within the last 90 days; out of those who had used, 38 percent reported using synthetic marijuana and less than 20 percent reported smoking regular weed. The soldiers surveyed also believed it was the only substance they used more regularly than civilians. The synthetic marijuana users were also found to typically be younger and less educated than those who depended on alcohol, as well as more likely to be single and with less annual income.

The U.S. military has banned synthetic marijuana in all branches and the government has classified it as a Schedule I drug, meaning it’s illegal to use under any circumstances. But because producers of these drugs routinely synthesize new compounds to get around the ban, it remains on the street while posing  any number of health risks.

"Because the formulation is constantly changing, one batch could be innocuous while the next batch affects you totally differently and you land in the hospital with seizures," said Tom Walton, project director for the UW study and a research coordinator in social work. "So the health effects are very unpredictable."

Last week, nearly 120 people in Texas overdosed on K2 in a stretch of five days. Thirty of the overdoses came from Dallas within a single day, with Dr. James d’Etienne of Dallas’ Baylor Medical Center reporting that many of the overdose victims needed to be sedated before being treated.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.