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News > Adding ‘Spice’ ruins careers
Adding ‘Spice’ ruins careers

Posted 4/26/2011   Updated 4/26/2011 Email story   Print story


by Brandice J. O'Brien
Tinker Public Affairs

4/26/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- Chances are, if you use, you will lose.

Spice, an "herbal smoking mixture" with synthetic cannabis, was recently classified as a "Schedule 1 substance" on the Drug Enforcement Administration's Controlled Substance Act. Therefore, if the Air Force conducts a urinalysis test and Spice is found, the consequences are harsh.

Airmen who test positive for Spice can be court-martialed, face dishonorable discharge, confinement for at least five years and forfeit pay and allowances. Additionally, enlisted Airmen can be demoted to the lowest grade. According to Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, possession or distribution of the drug is also a violation and could result in the same consequences as an Airman who ingests Spice.

"It's important for our Air Force community to understand that not only are we aware of the dangers of its use, but the DEA has identified that it shouldn't be available in the public domain," said Dr. (Lt. Col.) Grand Wong, chief of Medical Staff for the 72nd Medical Group.

Spice first appeared on the European market in 2004. By 2009, it had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and infiltrated the American market. Although the product was not intended for human consumption, users found it offered a high similar to that of marijuana.

Yet, the side effects - anxiety, nausea, paranoia, discomfort, confusion and an overall longing for the experience to end - proved more severe than marijuana. Users also complained of "couch-lock," a feeling of paralysis.

Officials have said the reason behind the intensified effects can be blamed on the purity of the synthetic chemicals. It can also be attributed to fact that not all batches are universal and not all of Spice's ingredients are known.

"You don't really know what you're going to get," said Olga Simons, Tinker's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment, or ADAPT, office program manager. "It's different batches of chemicals from different distributors putting it out there."

The doctor agreed.

"When Spice first came out, the Air Force recognized there was a danger because it is a synthetic version of marijuana. The Air Force made it restricted, meaning an active-duty member couldn't use Spice, even if they purchased it legally," Dr. Wong said. "However, the DEA recognizing the dangers associated with Spice and the lack of any regulations regarding the processing and manufacturing of it realized it was a very dangerous drug."

The drug was determined a "Schedule 1 substance" on March 1. The Schedule 1 category is for substances that are likely to be abused, and are not used for medical treatment in the United States.

In fiscal 2010, nearly 400,000 Airmen Air Force-wide were tested for Spice. At Tinker, more than 30 military personnel have been disciplined for spice use and are in the process of being discharged.

"This is some bad stuff that's already harmed some people," said Sally Smith, licensed alcohol and drug counselor with the ADAPT office.

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