The Air Force can now screen up to 3,000 airmen per month for synthetic marijuana, a significant increase over previous testing abilities, thanks to new drug testing equipment that came online this month.
The equipment is the latest breakthrough in the campaign against the group of drugs known as Spice, which have become pervasive in the military and led to hundreds of courts-martial and separations, and been at the center of scandals at military academies. The Air Force can now run 100 times more drug tests for Spice than the office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, which handles most testing across the military, and screens up to 30 samples per month for each branch.
Still, the new measure will not let the military randomly conduct urine testing for Spice ”” a method that has kept drugs such as marijuana and cocaine in check for years.
For now, the Air Force urine screening will be done on demand, and the service will ”œcontinue to provide testing for command-directed urinalysis and unit, dorm and gate sweeps,” Air Force spokesman Todd Spitler said in a released statement.
The Air Force spent $480,000 for two specialized machines that can detect metabolites in the urine of Spice users, according to the service. The service said it also hired two forensic toxicologists and will hire five laboratory technicians to work specifically on the testing.
Spice is the commercial name associated with various synthetic marijuana-like drugs that have recently swept through the United States and the rest of the world. The drugs are sprayed onto dried herbs that resemble marijuana and give a euphoric high when smoked. But the compounds also can cause panic attacks, hallucinations, vomiting and bouts of anger, according to the Air Force.
Synthetic marijuana sending more teens to hospital, study finds
CBS News, By Ryan Jaslow, March 19
Synthetic marijuana is sending more kids and teens to the emergency room than ever before, according to the authors of a new study. Making matters even worse, emergency room doctors might not recognize the symptoms from these relatively new drugs, and may not realize some of these teens need immediate medical attention.
Synthetic marijuana is a mix of plants and chemicals that’s sometimes sold as “potpourri” under the brand names K2, Spice and Blaze. According to the study, published in the March 19 issue of Pediatrics, The American Association of Poison Control Centers received 4,500 calls involving problems from synthetic marijuana between 2010 to 2011.
The researchers also reported an uptick in the number of teens reporting to emergency rooms after using the fake – but dangerous – drug. They detailed three cases of so-called “synthetic cannabinoid intoxication” for their study.
One case involved a 16-year-old girl who was “catatonic” with her eyes open, but not responding to verbal or painful cues to try and get her attention. Another looked at an 18-year-old boy who was agitated and sweating profusely, and the third case looked at a 16-year-old boy who presented to the ER hallucinating with a “frozen face” and slow speech.
The teens in the study were also found to experience symptoms such as agitation, aggression, excessive sweating, restlessness and an inability to speak.