New York steps up war on K2, Spice, other synthetic drugs

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Packets of illegal synthetic synthetic cannabinoids. (Governor's Press Office)

New York state is launching a new effort to fight synthetic cannabinoids, which are often sold in colorful packets labeled as "safe and natural" incense or herbal smoking blends. In reality, these manmade substances are "extremely dangerous and addictive," according to the state agency that combats alcohol and drug addiction.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced a multi-agency initiative that includes public awareness campaigns and greater resources for law enforcement. The effort includes additional drug-sniffing dogs who will search for the illicit substance in state correctional facilities.

The strategy also includes clinical guidance for mental health professionals and emergency room staff who treat users of the drug, officials said.

Synthetic cannabinoids or synthetic marijuana are sold under brand names such as K2, Spice, Green Giant, Geeked Up, Caution, Smacked, Wicked X, AK-47, Herbal Incense, Fake Weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, Fire, Aroma, Earth impact, Mr. Smiley, Mr. Nice Guy, Zohai, Black Mamba, and Dream.

"Highly addictive synthetic cannabinoids are toxic and lethal," Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services said in a statement. "This initiative will focus on raising awareness of the risks associated with synthetic drugs and protecting communities affected by these dangerous substances."

Smoking or consuming synthetic cannabinoids can cause blood pressure irregularities, agitation, irritability, nausea and vomiting, seizures, anxiety, paranoia, aggressive behavior, kidney failure, hypertension, death, and much more, according to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

Synthetic marijuana has been blamed for several mass overdoses in public where witnesses and first responders described users as "zombie-like."

With The Associated Press