Jan 29, 2015
New Drug Sounding Alarms

By Kyle Garratt

A new, mostly legal drug that imitates marijuana has been raising concern for some time in the general public, and that attention has now spread to the athletic community. Most commonly referred to as K2, the substance also goes by names such as “Spice” and “Spice Gold.” While K2 produces a high similar to marijuana, it is not known what the health effects are and officials are worried about how it might alter athletes’ performance and well being.

Meet K2

No test exists for the compounds in K2 that create its high and it is legal in every state except Kansas. The drug is sold as incense and all the listed ingredients are herbs–although the compounds are not listed. K2 is not considered a controlled substance under federal jurisdiction, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has listed the effective compounds as drugs and is monitoring them as chemicals of concern. The DEA typically uses a lengthy process to label a drug a controlled substance unless it does so on an emergency basis.

“They can make it a scheduled substance on an emergency basis until it can be done permanently if they find indications of a danger,” Jeremy Morris, Senior Forensics Scientist at the Johnson County (Kan.) Criminalistics Laboratory, told Insight, the official publication of the National Center for Drug Free Sport. “We are well on our way to that with K2. There have been hospitalizations in Maine, Florida, Kansas and Missouri.”

The NCAA posted a story on its Web site that was originally published in Insight. The article details the potentially negative effects of the drug through Jim Hartman, a parent in southwest Missouri, whose 14-year-old son, Tyler, tried smoking K2. Tyler experienced a seizure and became non-responsive.

“His eyes were red and big and he didn’t seem to know where he was,” Hartman told Sally Huggins, the story’s author. “He was mostly unconscious for six hours. He would move and his eyes would open but he didn’t know where he was. He was on oxygen, his heartbeat was real slow, then it was fast. At one point they talked about sending him to a hospital in Springfield (Missouri) to be put on a ventilator.”

While there is still no test, the Olympic Analytical Laboratory at UCLA and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City have samples of K2, which they are analyzing.

States Taking Action

Several cities in Missouri have made the drug illegal, and a measure to do the same statewide is near passing, as both the Senate and House have passed a bill to do so.

In Louisiana, the Senate and House have passed separate bills looking to make the substance illegal.

University Acts

Elon University didn’t wait for the state of North Carolina to ban the drug and took the initiative.

“The way our handbook is written, certainly the possession of illegal drugs is a violation,” Whitney Gregory, the school’s Coordinator of Judicial Affairs, told The Pendulum. “But that also includes using drugs not as directed.

“It’s just like spray paint,” she continues. “You can possess spray paint but if you were to huff the can of spray paint, that would be using it not as directed.”

Not in the Navy

The U.S. Navy got ahead of the problem and added K2 to its list of banned substances.

Kyle Garratt is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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