K2, Spice, Dappo, herbal smoking blend – whatever you call it, it’s dangerous. And authorities in Japan cannot seem to stop the concerning rise in use of these synthetic cannabis products.
On August 8th, Connor Eckhardt, a 19-year-old from California, died from taking just one hit of synthetic marijuana. In June, a motorist in Tokyo was under the influence of a similar drug while driving, and hit and killed a pedestrian, injuring 7 others.
Synthetic marijuana is making itself known across the globe – and both youth and adults alike are experimenting with it. Herbs sprayed with certain chemicals are said to create a similar high to that of marijuana (if not more intense) – but at a far cheaper price – and it is still legal in many countries around the world.
Known in the U.S. as ‘K2′ or ‘Spice’, it has also been labeled as incense, potpourri or herbal smoking blend and was sold in convenience stores around the country until 2012, when it was made illegal. However, authorities say it is still very easy to find, and can even be ordered over the internet with relative ease.
In Japan, the drug is known as ‘Dappo Habu’ (Dappo Herb) or just ‘Dappo‘, and police have been having a very hard time cracking down on it – even after legislation was passed making the drug illegal to produce, sell or possess in April of this year. According to their National Police Agency, producers of the drug have been finding loopholes in the law. The herbs used are not illegal as they are regular herbs and spices. It is the chemicals they add that produce hallucinogenic and other marijuana-like effects. Thus, the agency has banned the chemicals being used on the herbs. However, producers have been able to continuously change the chemical strain faster than the police can make the new chemicals illegal.
In 2012, there were 99 people hospitalised in Japan after smoking the drug, and many more dozens of motor accidents also blamed on it – and these figures are rising. Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, is making it a priority to alert the public of the danger of this drug. Because it is referred to as an herb, Suga says that the people of Japan have the misconception that this drug is somehow ‘safer’ than other illicit drugs. Suga has proposed that the name be changed from Dappo Habu to “Dappo Doraggu” (Dappo Drugs) with the intent to better state the danger of the drug, directly in its name.
Nao Mazaki, a coordinator in the Japan branch of the U.S.-based Foundation for a Drug-Free World, said that cracking down on the law to incarcerate or arrest those found using or dealing the drug will not be enough. “We need to educate the public about why we shouldn’t use Dappo Drugs, which are harmful to human beings… Even adults don’t know how harmful it can be,” she said. She also noted that many users think that taking Dappo Drugs is the same as smoking tobacco, showing how uneducated the population is on this substance.
Around the world, these chemical-laden herbs are sending people to hospital and causing deaths. Spread the word of the dangers of this drug, and if you think someone you know may be experimenting with synthetic marijuana, alert them to the dangers immediately.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use or addiction, please contact a professional to learn more about what you can do to help.