Kurtis Hildreth was a healthy 18-year-old, according to his family members, who never had a heart condition or experienced seizures. Two months ago, the Alaskan teen was found dead in his bedroom with a pipe filled with a synthetic brand of marijuana known as Spice at his feet. Although the medical examiner's office declared the cause of his death to be "undetermined," Kurtis' family feels the catalyst was obvious: Spice. Now they are making it a priority to spread the word about this drug, which is totally legal and gaining in popularity among some teens.
Spice is a chemical made in China that is sprayed with dried plant material and marketed as a type of incense. It resembles potpourri and, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is sold under the following names: K2, Yucatan Fire, fake weed, skunk, and moon rocks. Manufacturers are able to get around laws by labeling their products "not safe for human consumption" and by constantly changing the chemicals in their mixtures so that they can't be accused of using Schedule I controlled substances, which are illegal to buy.
It's really difficult to prove whether Spice has caused any deaths, a sad fact for Kurtis' family, whom I'm sure would like closure and for their son's death to ignite changes in the synthetic marijuana industry. We do know that, in addition to producing feelings of relaxation and elevated mood in users of Spice, other side effects of the drug sound way nastier than those of actual marijuana: some users report having hallucinations, anxiety, and paranoia.
The drug has also been associated with raising blood pressure and reducing blood supply to the heart, which could cause a heart attack. Scary stuff.
As with bath salts, cleaning agents, and cough medicine -- legal household items that teens (and adults) can easily abuse -- I'm guessing it's going to be pretty difficult to outright ban a substance like Spice. As parents, I'm not sure what else we can do except teach our kids about the various drugs that are being used and provide facts about each so they don't take a friend's word that something is safe just because it's legal.
Have you heard of Spice? How do you handle drug issues with your teen?
Image via k2incense.com