So What Exactly is Kush? (City Council Is Asking)
For starters: Kush is not—repeat, is NOT—marijuana.
By Roxanna Asgarian 8/22/2016 at 12:00am Published in the September 2016 issue of Houstonia
“We have a drug problem in America. And I’m telling you if we don’t solve this, we’re in trouble,” Jack Christie told the chamber at a City Council meeting this summer, shortly after 16 people overdosed on the drug called kush in Hermann Park. “So don’t listen to California, going from hemp, to medical marijuana, to recreational,” the councilman advised. “That’s the way they insidiously get into society and hook the society for profits, and the side effects can be as great as death.”
There was only one problem with Christie’s rousing speech: Kush is not—repeat, is not—marijuana. You can hardly blame him for not knowing that, though. Synthetic marijuana is smoked in the same fashion, and its compounds interact with the same part of the brain as the active ingredient in natural marijuana, THC. Adding to the confusion, which seems to be by design, certain strains of natural cannabis also go by the name “kush.”
Hence this quick kush primer:
What the heck is kush?
Bag and contents of a well-known early version of synthetic marijuana called “spice.”
Sometimes called spice or K2, it’s a mix of “plant matter” sprayed with an ever-changing host of chemicals, in sometimes dangerously high proportions. The original formula was invented by a chemist who had no idea that his medical-research papers, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, would be used to mass-market dangerous drugs around the world.
How easy is it to get?
The Texas Legislature tried to ban the chemicals used in kush in 2011, but scientists just tweaked their formulas so that the new stuff, slapped with a “not for human consumption” label, was technically legal. Houston passed a ban on synthetic marijuana in 2014, so no version of the drug is legal here anymore; today it carries a fine of $2,000 per package. Nevertheless, kush is still on offer in some local head shops, not to mention just a click away on the internet, where it’s available in huge quantities for cheap.
What is the city doing about it?
After the recent slate of Hermann Park overdoses, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced an initiative to increase police and park rangers’ presence in the four areas around town where use of kush is most prevalent—Hermann Park, Tranquility Park, Main Street Square, and Peggy’s Point, the little park on the corner of Main Street and Richmond Avenue.
How dangerous is it?
Side effects include paranoia and hallucinations, which can result in violent behavior and death. Since September 2015, nearly half of the 3,000 overdose calls fielded by city paramedics were for kush, according to Mayor Turner, clogging our emergency rooms and lengthening wait times for ambulances.
In the same period, how many regular-old-marijuana-related calls did the city receive?
126—less than 10 percent of the number for kush.
For starters: Kush is not—repeat, is NOT—marijuana.
Synthetic Marijuana: The High Cost of a Cheap Drug
By Marc Lallanilla 05 February 2013
Synthetic marijuana is cheap, readily available at convenience stores nationwide, and is leaving a trail of dead and severely injured teenagers in its wake, making it one of the most alarming new drugs available anywhere, according to medical experts and drug enforcement officials.
Emily Bauer, a high-school sophomore from Cypress, Texas, reportedly had violent outbursts, urinated on herself, and showed psychotic behaviors, after smoking some synthetic marijuana last December, according to CNN.com. Soon after, she was rushed to the emergency room at Northwest Cypress Hospital near Houston.
The following day, Emily was still behaving violently and injuring herself, according to the Daily Mail. Doctors decided to put the teenager in a medically induced coma to run tests on Emily’s brain. That’s when they discovered she had severe vasculitis — inflamed blood vessels in her head that had constricted, cutting off the supply of oxygen to her brain.
And when Emily’s blood vessels started expanding again, they greatly increased the pressure on her brain, forcing surgeons to cut a hole in the teenager’s skull and insert a tube to drain excess fluids and relieve the pressure.
Subsequent brain images showed the extent of damage the girl had suffered. “We met with [the] neurology team who showed us Emily’s brain images,” her mother, Tonya Bauer, said on a Facebook page, according to CNN. “They told us that all white areas on [the] images were dead. It looked to us at least 70 percent of the images were white.” [3 New Dangerous Drug Habits in Teens]
100 times more powerful than marijuana
Synthetic marijuana is often sold as incense or potpourri, and can be branded with names like K2, Spice, Kush or Klimax, the Daily Mail reports. The substance is a mixture of various herbs, sprayed with an assortment of chemicals whose effects purportedly mimic the high from regular marijuana when smoked.
It was declared illegal in July 2012 after President Barack Obama signed legislation that banned five of the chemicals commonly used to make synthetic marijuana and bath salts, another dangerous drug concoction, CNN reports.
But manufacturers have evaded the ban by using different chemicals in their mixture, which adds to the dangers inherent in the drug: From one manufacturer to the next, and from week to week, doctors and drug-enforcement officials aren’t sure what’s in the stuff.
“It’s really just an unknown. You don’t know what you are going to get with every batch that you buy, and for that it can be extremely dangerous,” an Oakland, Calif., undercover police officer told KTVU.com.
An additional concern is that synthetic marijuana use can’t be detected by urine tests, partly because the chemicals used in the drug change regularly.
“You’re hearing some pretty bad things with the synthetic cannabinoids — part of that has to do with the potency,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno told CNN. “It can be 100 times more potent than marijuana.”
And it’s growing in popularity: One in every nine high school seniors admitted to having used synthetic marijuana in 2011, according to a University of Michigan survey — even though the substance was linked to more than 11,000 emergency-room visits in 2010. About one-third of those ER visits involved teens between ages 12 and 17.
You might not think marijuana and quizzes go together, but on the assumption that you arrived at this quiz sober, we pose some serious questions that will require your utmost attention and critical thinking skills. Good luck.
Pot Quiz: Test Your Marijuana Knowledge, Dude!
‘I thought my son was dying’
When Sidney Washington’s mother came to pick him up from an after-school program in Oakland, Calif., earlier this year, she found her 16-year-old son lying lifeless on the sidewalk, KTVU reports.
“I thought my son was dying. I thought that that was my last moment with him. I thought it was over,” Latoya Washington told KTVU. Sidney recovered, but he’s luckier than some users.
Emily, the Texas teenager, is now blind and partially paralyzed, though intensive therapy seems to be helping: She recently started moving her arms and legs again, and can once again eat solid food, the Daily Mail reports. But because of the extent of brain damage Emily suffered, doctors are unsure of how much Emily, now 17, can expect to recover.
Her parents have started a group called Synthetic Awareness For Emily (SAFE) to raise awareness of the dangers of synthetic marijuana.
“We want to let kids and parents know about the warnings signs,” Emily’s stepfather, Tommy Bryant, told the Daily Mail. “This synthetic weed stuff, it’s so new that nobody knows about this stuff. We want to let other parents know about this so they don’t have to go what we’ve been going through.”
Synthetic marijuana has been linked to a growing number of deaths and severe health problems, especially among teenagers.