Synthetic marijuana has become increasingly popular with U.S. military troops, much to the concern of military brass. The military is so concerned they have launched an aggressive testing program.
“You can just imagine the work that we do in a military environment,” said Mark Ridley, deputy director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. “You need to be in your right mind when you do a job. That’s why the Navy has always taken a zero tolerance policy toward drugs.”
In 2011, the investigative service looked at 700 Marines and sailors for Spice, a synthetic marijuana product. Those found guilty of using Spice are kicked out of the military, although the Navy does not keep track of the overall number of dismissals. The synthetic drug can be purchased online. The drug can leave users with vomiting, elevated blood pressure, seizures to extreme agitation, anxiety and delusions.
The Naval Medical Center in San Diego is believed to have seen more patients with synthetic marijuana than any other health facility in the United States. Lt. Commander Donald Hurst is a fourth-year psychiatry resident at the Naval Medical Center. Hurst decided to study 10 cases of Spice use. Some had also smoked marijuana or drank alcohol, while others had only smoked Spice. Of the 10, nine had lost a sense of reality and seven babbled incoherently. Three are believed to now be schizophrenic. Hurst believed the drug may have triggered the symptoms in people genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. Hurst wants to have more questions answered, including Spice’s effects on those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injuries, common in the military.
“These are not drugs to mess with,” Hurst said.