Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

K2 Bursts Onto the Scene as a Dangerous New Drug

A new player in the street drug portfolio is drawing the attention of law enforcement officials, schools, medical professionals and athletic departments. The new substance, most commonly referred to as K2, is a synthetic compound that mimics the effects of marijuana. Its use is not easily identified. It has also been found under names such as Spice and Spice Gold. Because of its relatively low cost and legal status, this drug has become a popular way to get high.

The ingredients listed on a package of K2 incense are all herbs. The danger lies in the unlisted compounds known as JWH-018 and JWH-073. These compounds give K2 its mind-altering affect. JWH-018 and JWH-073 are synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of marijuana but, as of now, are not detected in routine urine testing. Users like the idea of getting the high of marijuana without being in danger of prosecution for drug use.

The substance initially was sold as an incense in coffee shops and gas station convenience stores but has now moved into herb stores, also known as head shops, according to Jeremy Morris, senior forensics scientist at the Johnson County (Kansas) Criminalistics Laboratory. While sold as incense, it is clearly intended for smoking, he said.

K2 smells and tastes horrible when it is smoked. Because of its unpleasant taste, new varieties such as K2 cherry and K2 grape have appeared. A person under the influence of K2 will appear much as someone using marijuana with characteristics such as reddening of the eyes and lethargy. Some internet forums indicate constant use can be addictive.

“The problem is the JWH compounds. They multiply the negative effects of marijuana three to five times. Symptoms include a racing heart, skyrocketing blood pressure and high anxiety,” Morris said. “They think their heart will explode. Clearly this is not something to fool around with.”

A teen in southwest Missouri experienced a seizure and became non-responsive within less than a minute of smoking K2. He spent about six hours in an intensive care unit and around 18 hours in the hospital. He was on oxygen and was almost put on a ventilator. There have been hospitalizations in Maine, Florida, Kansas, and Missouri.

Both the Olympic Analytical Laboratory at UCLA and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake have samples of K2 where they are developing a plan to analyze the product.

Germany was one of the first places where products containing the JWH compounds were seen. Officials there encountered a large number of cases involving the version known as Spice in 2008 and moved quickly, making those products illegal under the German Narcotics Law in early 2009.

The state of Kansas became the first to outlaw K2 with legislation signed by the governor in early March. Neither K2 nor its ingredients are currently controlled substances in any other state or federal jurisdiction, so use of the drug is not illegal outside of the state of Kansas. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is monitoring JWH-018 and JWH-073 and has listed them as drugs and chemicals of concern. The Missouri legislature is expected to consider a bill in its 2010 session.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is monitoring K2 but their process for adding a substance to the schedule of controlled substances is a long process unless done on an emergency basis. Regardless of the legal aspects of K2, the drug has demonstrated health dangers and is not a harmless drug.

Contributed to by Sally Huggins, Insight Contributor (DFS newsletter)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dietary Supplement Safety

Currently, manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety of the ingredients in a dietary supplement, but the FDA is not authorized by statute to require data supporting safety (double blind or placebo studies), as is the case for food additives or drugs. The FDA acts reactively to any supplement that is found to be harmful or contaminated. Actions to restrict the availability of a dietary supplement must proceed from a demonstration by the FDA of a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury to consumers under conditions of recommended use. Anything labeled as a dietary supplement is not guaranteed to be effective, safe, or legal.

Dietary supplements are widely available through a rapidly expanding market of products that are commonly advertised as being beneficial for health, performance enhancement, and disease prevention. There are hundreds of companies that manufacture and market these products through the internet, radio, magazines, health stores, and more. A search for creatine can bring up literally hundreds of different products made in different parts of the country and the world. The same can be said for a search for daily multivitamins, protein, and “legal steroids”. As a consumer, wading through this information can be overwhelming. Many consumers don’t research the products they are taking at all. They may see or hear something on the internet, TV, or radio that prompts them to buy a dietary supplement without any further thought. With tons of products claiming to “cause rapid weight loss”, “stop joint pain”, or “build large amounts of muscle” it is easy to see why. Behind these claims there is a lack of proof and an unknown risk.

It isn’t that all dietary supplements are harmful to our health; it is however the lack of regulation within the industry that causes concern. A good example of this would be ephedra. It took the FDA ten years to ban dietary supplement products containing ephedra, a weight loss and body building supplement ingredient that was found to cause serious medical risks and death. The evaluation of such products is especially difficult since many contain multiple ingredients, have a changing composition over time, or are used intermittently at doses difficult to measure. Because of these difficulties, it may take a long time for the current system of voluntary adverse event reporting to detect problems. Many dietary supplements have been taken off the shelves because they have been found to be contaminated with steroids that are dangerous and potentially deadly. BodyBuilding.com, one of the largest retailers of dietary supplements, voluntarily recalled 65 supplements that may contain steroids off their shelves in November 2009. Any dietary supplement can be contaminated and there is no guarantee that the ingredients listed on the label are all the ingredients in the product.

We should also note that “all natural” does not mean a product is safe to consume, especially if it is marketed and sold as a dietary supplement. There are plenty of natural berries and mushrooms that are poisonous to humans. Grass is natural but the human body can’t digest it (The cellulose makes it indigestible). Plants hold great power and with that power we have the ability to manufacture compounds for a wide variety of human uses: foods, dyes, medicines, construction materials, paper to name only a few. Whether to make a useful medicine or build the homes that we live in; the plant has to be studied, understood and tested. You wouldn’t move into a home that had the capability of being contaminated with a pollutant or poison, so why would you put something in your body with the same capability?

How do we change the current system?

In February, Senator John McCain introduced the Dietary Supplement Safety Act in an attempt to further regulate dietary supplements that may be harmful to health. The new legislation would require that manufacturers register with the FDA and disclose all ingredients in the supplement on the label. This legislation would also give the FDA mandatory recall authority if a product is found to be unsafe or harmful.

Opposition to this legislation is concerned about the authority of the FDA to ban certain products being sold as dietary supplements. There have been claims that pharmaceutical companies would then try to sell them as expensive drugs. There is also a concern that the inexpensive dietary supplement industry will be forced to raise prices on their products to compensate for the extra overhead of the paperwork and time required to be approved by the FDA.

Remember there are vested interests everywhere. Opponents of the bill will try to convince the public that the FDA is under the influence of large pharmaceutical companies who are trying to market former supplements as drugs at a higher cost. But these opponents also stand to lose a lot of money when required to prove their products are safe and effective. Money is a driving force for either side.

It comes down to health and safety. The products are not proven to be safe or effective. They could be a waste of time or money or they could not be. But before you spend the money and the time to find and use dietary supplements, wouldn’t it be nice to know that the products are safe and effective?

Drug Free Sport is a supporter of Supplement Safety Now, a public protection initiative urging Congress to establish regulatory framework to ensure over-the-counter supplements are safe and effective. Visit SupplementSafetyNow.com to learn more.

For more information and research on dietary supplements, please visit the National Institutes of Health website and PubMed.gov.

** The REC DOES NOT recommend the use of any dietary supplement. Always consult with a doctor before taking any type of dietary supplement.