By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
When Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed a law banning the possession or sale of synthetic marijuana, or Spice, April 13, 2010, the problem didn’t go away. In fact, in some areas, the use of Spice has increased.
U.S. Army personnel and Department of the Army civilians who smoke or are caught possessing Spice are in violation of AR 600-85. Soldiers are also in direct violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, failure to obey an order or regulation if he or she is caught with Spice.
According to Science Daily, Spice is a brand name of an herbal mix widely sold as an incense or legal substitute for marijuana.
Spice, which began appearing online in Europe in 2004, has a variety of names according to its flavor, such as Spice Diamond, Spice Gold, Spice Silver, 2Spicy or Spice of Life; each produces subtly different effects.
On Tuesday Special Agent Jake Huber, of the Fort Knox Criminal Investigative Division, was on hand during the Army Substance Abuse Program unit prevention leader training to explain the dangers of the drugs that are prevalent on post and surrounding communities.
Huber said his office investigates all drugs from Spice to crack cocaine. He pointed out that drug use is incompatible to military service.
“It’s been my experience (that) drug problems will lead to other problems,” he said.
Huber also said prior to a urinalysis some Soldiers believe that it’s an easy task to “beat” the test because information is readily available on the Internet which explains how to mask a drug. But, it’s not true because there are many different factors that determine how the body breaks down a drug.
Huber said the factors in a drug metabolizing in the body depends on, “body weight, age and metabolism. People try to use methods to flush out the system. We can detect if (a substance has been) added to urine. You can’t dilute or mask. Those things are detectable.”
He said if Soldiers attempt to mask or flush the system they can be subjected to further punishment.
Although Kentucky is one of the leading states with regard to prescription drug abuse, Huber pointed out that drugs like heroin are becoming more popular because prescription drugs are being reformulated.
But marijuana remains the No. 1 drug of choice in the nation and Spice is the No. 3. He added that on Fort Knox marijuana is more prevalent than Spice. And wrongful/misuse of prescription medication remains a big problem.
“Crystal meth is becoming more prevalent in the Louisville area,” said Huber.
Even though in the past marijuana was more prevalent than Spice, Huber said in 2012 Spice use caught up to marijuana use.
Drugs that are being used illegally are Adderall and Ambien which are being crushed and snorted. Huber said snorting Ambien has a hallucinogenic feeling.
Sue Lowrie, an ASAP prevention coordinator, has seen Soldiers after they have tested positive for drugs, especially Spice. She asked why that drug had become popular among Soldiers. Huber explained that it’s readily available and Soldiers still see it as being less detectable. He said they feel a little bit safer.
“(We are) just learning the effects as far as addictive qualities,” explained Huber. “I’ve seen Soldiers who just can’t get off it. I think Spice is a quick addiction. (It’s) more expensive than marijuana. I’ve seen a lot of Soldier on marijuana and Soldiers on Spice don’t try to hide it.
“Spice doesn’t smell like marijuana. (It’s) my understanding that it smells and taste awful. I’ve seen Soldiers kind of waste away. I don’t know if the drug makes them that way.
He added that there aren’t any long-term medical studies on Spice because it hasn’t been around long enough.
Lowrie said that the societal changes might be the reason for the increase in certain type of drug usage. Some states are moving toward legalizing marijuana and Soldiers believe if it’s being legalized it must be OK.
“The attitude about Spice is nonchalant,” said Lowrie.
“The (misconception) is it’s OK because (Spice) was sold legally,” Huber said.
Although many believe there isn’t a distinction between marijuana and Spice, Huber said he hasn’t heard many people say, “I tried Spice,” which differs from an occasional marijuana users.
“Spice is (being) used every day, not just recreationally,” said Huber. “Spice high is shorter, (which) could be why there is more frequency in use. (It’s a) more dramatic high.”