Navy’s YouTube Video Warns Against ‘Spice’ Drug

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)