Synthetic Marijuana Use On the Rise

March 31, 2015

Article courtesy of The Minden Press Herald written by Bonnie Culverhouse.

Minden Medical Center staff members have noticed an increase in young patients who are suffering ill effects from getting high on a synthetic marijuana compound recently banned by Louisiana State Police, Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Lisa Woods, nurse practitioner at the hospital, says she has seen three cases in the past five days connected to the illegal substance. “Two were teenagers and one in the early 20s,” she said. “These are just the ones that were brought to the hospital. There are others, they just weren’t sick enough to warrant being brought here.”

Woods says the drug is smoked – usually added to a marijuana cigarette – and one hit will cause a reaction.“Symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms and convulsions,” she said. “The ones we’ve had come to the emergency room have seized. They have seized and convulsed so long and so hard that their muscles start to break down because they are so tense and tight … or they vomit and asperate into their lungs.”

The medical community can treat the symptoms, but there is no way to reverse them.

Mojo is a designer synthetic drug … not something that grows from the ground. It comes from a legal initiative, “but then you put this compound with it and that’s what makes it illegal,” Woods said.

The compound is called MAB-CHMINACA. The ban adds the full chemical compound N-1-amino-3, 3-dimethyl-1-oxobutan-2yl)-1-(cyclohexylmethyl)-1H-indazole-3-carboxamide to the list of Schedule I Controlled Danger Substances.

“Everyone I know in the area is calling it Mojo,” Woods said. “It’s also sold under the name Spice and potpourri. I checked with hospitals in
Shreveport and Baton Rouge, and they have had many instances of this, and one teenager coded and died.”

Woods says some people believe the illnesses stem from a “bad batch,” but she disagrees. “This has been going on too long to be a bad batch,” she said. “It’s that they are always looking for a better drug … a better high … one that is not detectable.”

Woods says Mojo was most prevalent in south Louisiana but has now migrated to the area. The cases she has seen were in the Minden Medical Center service area but were not from Minden.

However, Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper and juvenile officer Tina Douglas say the drugs are here. “It’s as big a problem as marijuana and crack cocaine,” Cropper said. “A lot of kids think because they can go to a convenience store and buy the stuff – it’s an incense – then it’s OK. The purpose is for you to buy it, take it home and burn it for the aroma. The problem is they (teens) are smoking it instead of burning it for the aroma.”

Douglas says Mojo is addressed in her DARE class, and the kids talk about it freely. “Students in some of the area schools – even at the junior high level – are trying it,” she said. “It has a different smell from marijuana. When they’re burning it, the teachers may not know what it is because the smell is not something they are familiar with.”

Cropper says manufacturers are trying to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. “They change the ingredients up to supposedly make it legal to sell,” he said. “In reality, it’s harmful when you consume it.”

Cropper says the police department will continue to monitor local stores, especially the ones that have sold it in the past. “We do checks on them to try and keep it from being sold in Minden,” he said. “But they are bringing it into Minden from other places, also.”

In the meantime, parental involvement is key to keeping the children safe. Woods recommends a website for National Institute on Drug Abuse – www.drugabuse.gov.

“It has tons of stuff for parents,” she said. “What’s new and upcoming in the drug world … emerging trends. It’s sad that we have to resort to websites like this but, unfortunately, it’s become necessary.”