By SHAUNA ANDERSON
If you knew there was a drug out there that was 1000 times stronger than marijuana, would you be concerned? That your teenager might find it easy to obtain. That it was marketed as “safe legal high”. But that, in reality, it can cause psychosis, heart attacks, liver damage, cardiovascular problems and – just recently – the death of a much-loved 19-year old man.
If you knew this drug was around, would you talk to your kids about it? Well, of course you would, but the scary thing is that more than 60% of parents haven’t heard of this drug – and more than 40% of those who have, think it’s safe.
Synthetic cannabis is making headlines around the world after the death of 19-year old Connor Eckhardt, who fell into a coma and died after smoking one hit of a brand called “Spice”. Mamamia reported on the tragic circumstances surrounding his death.
“Connor did not want to die,” his mother said. “Connor very much wanted to live. He had everything to live for.”
Connor’s family have embarked on a crusade to raise awareness of the dangers of synthetic cannabis.
I spoke to Professor Jan Copeland, the Director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre at UNSW to help answer some questions around this drug.
As the mother of three kids, the first thing she told me sent a jolt though me. Teenagers as young as 13 and 14 are smoking synthetic cannabis – and frighteningly, they think it is safe.
What is synthetic cannabis?
Professor Copeland told me that this stuff is not actually anything to do with what you know as marijuana – the only thing they have in common is that they stimulate the same part of the brain. She says it was never designed for human consumption.
“There are hundreds of these chemicals now, there is at least one coming out every week in Australia.”
What does it look like?
According to Professor Copeland, they will look like colourful foil packages with branding such as room freshener or incense on it. She says it will smell like mild incense. Inside they it have a herbal material with flowers or other bits of colouring in it. It will often be marked “not for human use” or as “research chemicals.”
Synthetic cannabis comes under many brand names such as “Spice”, “Kronic” “ Buzz” “Caution” “K2”. She says it is “so important parents talk to kids so that they are aware if they come across drugs marketed as room fresheners, incense or not for human use then they know they are in fact very risky drugs.”