Navy Surgeon General Warns of Health Effects of Spice

Story Number: NNS110803-17Release Date: 8/3/2011 12:10:00 PM
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By Shoshona Pilip-Florea, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy Surgeon General cautioned his commanding officers, medical providers and personnel on the negative health effects and legal consequences of using synthetic marijuana like Spice and other designer drugs in a message sent to all of Navy Medicine Aug. 2.

The purpose of the message was to educate and inform Navy and Marine Corps personnel about these drugs and the very real dangers associated with their use.

"It is paramount all Navy Medicine personnel are aware of the adverse health effects of these drugs," said Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., U.S. Navy surgeon general and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "Serious side effects have been reported after its use including tremors, panic attacks, delirium, impaired coordination, seizures, paranoid hallucinations, and psychotic symptoms that can last for days, even months in some cases."

Spice looks similar to marijuana or oregano and is used for its psychoactive and hallucinogenic effects. The products contain organic leaves coated with unregulated chemical compounds. Spice and other designer drugs are falsely marketed by manufacturers as a safe way to get high while avoiding drug testing.

The synthetic chemicals in Spice-type products have a more potent effect on the brain than traditional marijuana and the unregulated compounds are often mixed with unknown effects, according to Robinson. These products are not approved for human consumption and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process. Similar to other drugs on the street, experts warn that you never know what mixture of chemicals could be present in the drugs and users are experimenting with the combination of multiple products which can dramatically change or increase its effects on a case by case basis.

Robinson warns that rapid tolerance in some users can lead to increased dosage and addiction and the use of synthetic marijuana has led to a surge in emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers, according to the DEA. This spring, Navy Medicine treated multiple patients at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Calif., for Spice usage, some resulting in months of inpatient treatment for persistent psychotic symptoms.

"Commanding officers must be fully engaged in synthetic drug abuse prevention and do everything in their power to increase awareness within their commands of the serious health consequences and legal ramifications of its use," wrote Robinson.

Spice and other designer drugs fall under the Navy and Marine Corps' Zero Tolerance policy and Robinson further emphasizes that commanding officers do not need a positive urinalysis to begin administrative separation. Personnel found to be using, possessing, distributing or who observe an abuse and do not report the incident can be charged with violating the Navy's policies as well.

As the Navy Surgeon General and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Robinson leads 63,000 Navy Medicine personnel that provide healthcare support to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, their families and veterans in high operational tempo environments, at expeditionary medical facilities, medical treatment facilities, hospitals, clinics, hospital ships and research units around the world.

For more news from Navy Medicine, visit

Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr., Surgeon General of the Navy and Marine Corps and Chief of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery,
Official U.S. Navy file photo of Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson Jr., Surgeon General of the Navy and Marine Corps and Chief of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
October 21, 2010
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