Jul 10

Special Two-Part Briefing on E-Cigarettes and Synthetic Drugs: Part 2

E-cigarette versions of synthetic drugs are increasingly available

The manufacturers and distributors of synthetic cannabinoid substances- commonly referred to as “K2″ or “Spice”- produce vaporizable liquid versions of their products.  These vaporizable liquids, known as e-liquids are often deceptively marketed as potpourri oils or incense oils.  E-liquids are sold pre-loaded in e-devices such as electronic cigarettes and in eye-dropper bottles used to fill personal vaporizers or vapor pens.  The transition from traditional leaf-based synthetic cannabinoids to e-liquid versions has allowed manufacturers and distributors to use an extremely viable method to market their products.  E-devices and e-liquids are currently not regulated in the same manner as tobacco products, and thus allow the manufacturers of e-products”‘ to maintain the secrecy of their e-liquids’ ingredients.  Marketing by both e-cigarette and synthetic cannabinoid manufacturers tends to target teens and young adults.  This focused marketing, coupled with the younger generation’s love of technology and their proclivity towards drug experimentation could lead to an epidemic of synthetic drug abuse, severe reactions, and overdoses.  Successful manufacturing and distribution of synthetic cannabinoid e-liquids may also foreshadow attempts by narco-chemists to create e-liquid versions of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

Teens and young adults are particularly susceptible to the dangers posed by synthetic drug liquids

The marketing of e-cigarette products to teens and young adults and the availability of synthetic drug liquids are two dangerous trends that enjoy a reciprocal relationship.  E-devices could easily become the preferred method of abusing synthetic drugs because of their ‘Techy appeal,” ability to be accessorized, and the wide variety of both legal and illegal products a single device can vaporize.   Users, emboldened by the veil of ambiguity e-devices offer, are able to abuse synthetic and other drugs in plain view of law enforcement and the public.  Severe reactions and overdoses are expected to increase as users attempt, through trial and error, to determine “proper” dosage amounts of synthetic cannabinoid liquids.

Wink-And-A-Nod Marketing

The manufacturers and distributors of synthetic drugs such as “Spice” and “bath salts” typically use marketing ploys and ambiguous product disclaimers.  This wink-and-a-nod style of marketing overtly hints at the intended illegal consumption of these products by the users, while protecting the makers and distributors from the literal interpretation of the advertisements and disclaimers that may lead to prosecution.

The website www.theofficialK2incense.com sells K2 e-liquid for use in personal electronic vaporizers. The website states that “K2 e-liquid is the newest way for K2 lovers to enjoy their favorite legal POTpourri… Use a drop of your favorite scent in any electronic vaporizing device… and you can reach a deeper state of peace and meditation.  Whether you want to chill at home or spice up the next big rave, K2 e-liquid has the delicious POTpourri experience you crave in one power packed drop.”  The K2 e-liquid page also claims “K2 e-liquid was not developed for human consumption.  When you buy this product, it can only be used for aromatherapy purposes or as a research chemical.”

The convergence of e-cigarette technology and the appeal of synthetic drugs creates the potential for an epidemic

E-cigarettes and vapor pens are available in several shapes, sizes, and colors, with various functions and LED lights.  These e-devices are small, easily concealable, and include a wide array of accessories; many are marketed specifically to teens and young adults.  E-devices also allow users to vaporize various forms of legal and illegal liquids in the same device.  The 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that the number of middle school and high school students who admitted the use of e-cigarettes or vapor pens doubled to nearly two million in 2012 from one million in 2011. One in five middle school students who admitted they had used one of these devices had never smoked a traditional tobacco cigarette. Synthetic cannabinoid abuse has increased during the last several years, especially among teens.  Both the 2011 and 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey found that approximately 11 percent of high school seniors reported using Spice, making it the second most widely used drug after marijuana