WASHINGTON — A new YouTube video developed by the Navy warns service members about the synthetic marijuana known as spice, and how use of the designer drug can negatively impact their health and military careers.
Every military service bans the use of spice, which is comprised of organic leaves coated with synthetic chemicals. Spice is marketed as a safe way to get high while avoiding detection during drug tests.
Officials emphasized in the video that both spice selling points are false.
“The damage these drugs do to your mind, body and career is permanent,” said Navy Rear Adm. Michael H. Anderson, medical officer to the Marine Corps. “It’s not legal. It’s not healthy. It’s not worth it.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a decision in March making spice illegal nationwide for at least a year. According to the DEA’s website, the agency took the action as an emergency measure in light of the alarming number of reports about spice-type substances it received from poison control centers, hospitals and law enforcement agencies.
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh sent a memo to the Army community in February prohibiting the use and possession of synthetic cannabis and other substitutes for THC — shorthand for tetrahydrocannabinol — the substance in marijuana that causes a “high.”
Air Force officials released guidance in June 2010 banning the use or possession of spice. The new language was incorporated in Air Force Instruction 44–121 that governs the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program.
Spice and other designer drugs also fall under Navy and Marine Corps zero tolerance policies.
Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., the Navy’s surgeon general and chief of the service’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, emphasized that abstinence isn’t enough to confront the spice problem. Like those who use, possess or distribute spice, anyone who observes these practices and doesn’t report them can be charged with violating the Navy’s policies as well.
“It is not good enough to simply police our own actions with regards to spice and other designer drugs,” he said. “These drugs are dangerous, and we learn more about their damaging effects each day. It is essential that every sailor and Marine be looking out for their colleagues to prevent injury to their health and their careers.”
The military services have the authority to prosecute violators under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The forensic toxicology division within the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner tests for spice and other designer drugs at the request of the services. The challenge, explained spokesman Paul Stone, is that with so many different formulas, and new compositions introduced regularly, it’s difficult for testers to keep ahead of the new formulas.
Robinson emphasized that commanding officers don’t need a positive urinalysis to begin the process of removing violators from military service.
Anderson reiterated the point in the YouTube video.
“Because this is a moving target and some chemicals will not show up in routine testing, commanding officers do not need a positive urinalysis to begin administrative separation,” he said.
Like other synthetic drugs including “K2” and “Blaze,” spice is developed using chemicals not intended for human consumption, the video notes. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate these substances, which means they aren’t subject to oversight during the manufacturing process.
Little is known about the toxicology and safety of designer drugs, officials said. However, they noted side effects such as elevated heart rates and blood pressure, breathing problems, abdominal pain, seizures, extreme anxiety and other emotional problems.
In the most extreme situations, spice has been linked to heart attacks, psychosis and suicides, officials said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)