Seizures Like Demi Moore’s Not Uncommon After Smoking Spice

It is not certain that Demi was smoking Spice but there were several clues indicating she was smoking synthetic marijuana (known as “Spice”).

The recent hospitalization of Demi Moore has put the focus on the synthetic drug known as “Spice.”  While it’s not known for sure what the 49-year-old actress ingested, the 911 tape that was released to the press revealed that she was experiencing a seizure after smoking an incense-like substance.  During the course of the call, people who were with Moore described her as having convulsions, shaking and “burning up.”  These are all side effects associated with a designer drug sold under a variety of names, including:

  • Spice
  • K2
  • Red X
  • Dawn
  • Blaze

Spice and similar products consist of plant material that has been sprayed with a chemical compound that is intended to mimic the effects of marijuana. These products are sold legally in head shops, convenience stores and over the Internet, packaged as incense with instructions that they are not intended to be smoked.  This warning only serves to protect the manufacturer and retailer since the substance is definitely being purchased to smoke.  

According to researchers at the University of Utah, smoking Spice can be responsible for toxic side effects not typically seen with marijuana, including:
•    Tachyarrhythmia (a dangerously elevated heart rate)
•    Increased blood pressure
•    Vomiting
•    Anxiety attacks
•    Disorientation
•    Psychosis
•    Seizures

Emergency rooms are seeing patients with no history of neurological problems who experience their first seizure after smoking Spice.  Because so little is known about synthetic cannabinoids, doctors have not yet identified what it is about the Spice and similar substances that can cause seizures. 

Part of the appeal of Spice is that it leaves no trace in the body.  This makes it attractive to drug parolees and other people who are subject to commercial drug screens.  Spice also appeals to teenagers and young adults because it is easily accessible.  Despite the wide availability of these products, users are putting themselves at great risk because the chemicals used are unknown and untested.  Someone who buys the product has no idea exactly what they’re ingesting. 

Starting in 2009, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency began to see a surge in reports related to Spice from poison control centers, hospital emergency rooms and law enforcement agencies.  In an attempt to stem the use of Spice, the DEA used its emergency scheduling authority and classified five synthetic cannabinoids as schedule I drugs.  This makes possession and sale of these drugs illegal in the U.S.  This emergency scheduling will remain in effect until March of 2012 and may be extended.

One of the biggest problems faced by the DEA is that new Spice products containing different chemical formulas are emerging, making it almost impossible to control their production and distribution.

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