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Smoking Incense Imagine finding your teenager sweating, pale, shaking, not recognizing you, and talking, but not making sense.

What a frightening scenario! You'd think it's drugs, but not the kind you'd have expected.

What we described can happen from smoking a seemingly harmless herbal incense. They're available at gas stations, smoke shops, and the internet.

They come by enticing names such as K2, Spice, Gold, Genie, Zohai and Black Mamba.

The incense, when smoked, produces effects similar to marijuana, yet, any child can buy it. That's because it's marketed as incense and labeled "not for human consumption." And yet a growing number of teens are smoking it.

The herbs are sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. Yep, synthetic versions of the active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahyrocannabinol or THC.

Synthetic cannabinoids were originally synthesized in the lab of Dr. John W. Huffman at Clemson University. According to Dr. Huffman, these chemicals were developed for research, and not for human use.

However, once published in scientific literature, the methods for synthesizing these compounds became available to anyone.

Like THC in marijuana, these synthetic cannabinoids turn on the cannabinoid receptors on many cells in the body, especially the brain. However, unlike THC, no human testing has been done with these synthetic forms.

What we do know is they bind more tightly to receptors than THC does. This may explain why smoking herbal incense provides more dramatic and longer lasting highs.

But the cost is, users can become addicted, have breathing problems, severe hallucinations, increased heart rate, tremors and even siezures.

Herbal incense is already banned in much of Europe, and Kansas just became the first state to outlaw the product. So, talk to your kids so they know the risks, and avoid this dangerous drug.


For more information…

A very informative article on these incense products and the synthetic cannabinoids that are sprayed on them go to this online article entitled "FAQ: K2, Spice Gold, and Herbal ‘Incense’ Legal Herbal Products Laced With Designer Drugs: Not Your Father's Marijuana" written by Daniel J. DeNoon and published on webmd.

For more specific information about the synthetic cannabinoids go to this two part series: Part 1 | Part 2

The New York Times published a comprehensive article entitled "Synthetic Marijuana Spurs State Bans" by Malcolm Gay that does a very nice job of covering the topic

The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides an information sheet about Spice in English and in Spanish.

For more information about Marijuana with details about its use, mechanisms of action with extensive links to a great deal of useful information please go here.