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Training & Education Command (TECOM)


Training & Education Command (TECOM)

United States Marine Corps

Depot combats spice use

By Lance Cpl. Eric Quintanilla | | August 12, 2011

The Marine Corps has a zero-tolerance policy concerning illegal drug use and synthetic drugs like spice are no different.

Marines who possess, use, promote, manufacture or distribute drugs or products containing synthetic cannabinoid compounds may be subject to punitive action under articles 92 and 112A of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a message sent to Navy Medicine.

“These are mainly untested chemicals with unknown toxicity, addiction potential, long-term effects and allergic reactions,” said Frank Chavez, drug demand reduction coordinator, substance abuse counseling center. “Additionally, there is no quality assurance with the production of these chemicals.”

There are more than 100 synthetic compounds that can be used to create these effects but only six are currently on the Drug Enforcements Administration’s list of controlled substances.

Spice contains organic leaves that look similar to marijuana and are coated with chemicals. People use spice for its psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects. These synthetic chemicals can bind more permanently to the brain and organs.

Spice can be made with many different chemicals making it potentially five to 200 times more potent than the tetrahydrocannabinol or THC found in marijuana.

“The amount of the psychoactive ingredient is not standardized,” said Chavez. “Thus, a person can buy different types of spice and experience a much more intense effect.”

Signs and symptoms including relaxation, giddiness, bloodshot eyes, and impaired short-term memory and concentration which can occur within five to 10 minutes. These drugs can also have a hangover-like effect.

“These drugs impede and adversely affect motor coordination and emotional regulation,” added Chavez. “The effects vary from person to person based on their emotional state and resiliency.”

Some of the more serious symptoms include unrest, panic attacks, seizures, rapid heart rate, vomiting, hallucinations, mood disorders, loss of consciousness, and psychotic symptoms that can last for days or even months.

Spice can be found under many different names. Users are also experimenting with combining products and different ways to take it such as snorting and smoking which can change or increase the effects.

“There are many kinds of spice that can have various effects, said George Mangual, director of the SACC aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. “It can be ingested in various ways and can be more potent than marijuana.”

Last year the Naval Medical Center San Diego admitted 20 people to its psychiatric ward for loss of contact to reality due to spice use, according to Mangual.

If a Marine is caught or suspected of using spice or a similar drug they are immediately referred to the substance abuse counseling center.

“We do an evaluation to find out the extent of use and if they have a problem, and in every case of spice use there is a recommended administrative separation,” said Mangual. “Don’t make this mistake. Just because they sell it doesn’t mean it’s legal.”