News: Don't Spice up your life
Story by Ethan Morgan
RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Just a dash of Spice can destroy your health and career.
Spice and related chemicals have been banned Air Force-wide since June 8, 2010, but members can be tested for the use of Spice on a more regular basis since the Air Force acquired the ability to test for it in-house in mid-March.
"The Air Force recently spent $480,000 to acquire two specialized instruments capable of detecting metabolites in the urine of Spice users; allowing the Air Force to test 2,500 airmen a month," said Lt. Col. Michelle Ewy, Air Force Medical Operations Agency, Air Force Drug Testing Lab commander. "Before the instruments were acquired by the Air Force, we relied on a commercial lab to do the majority of Spice testing. The Air Force will continue to utilize a commercial outlet for Spice testing until we reach 100 percent capabilities in July 2012."
The Air Force's increased testing ability is not the only reason airmen should not use Spice.
"Spice is a mixture of herbs that is sprayed with a synthetic compound to produce a psychoactive effect similar to marijuana when smoked," said Michael Dubroff, RAF Mildenhall Drug Demand Reduction program manager. "Typically, users have loss of cognition, slow response time, inability to pay attention, dilated pupils, and elevated pulse and blood pressure."
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse website (www.drugabuse.gov), Spice is primarily sold as "incense" and labeled "not for human consumption" on the packages, but it is still marketed to and bought by people who are looking for an alternative to marijuana.
Even though the toxicity of Spice consumption has not been fully characterized, according to the NIDA website, Poison Control Centers in Texas reported that patients who were admitted due to Spice consumption presented symptoms such as rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations.
"Can you imagine someone using Spice with the type of work we do throughout the Air Force? That is why the Air Force has a zero-tolerance policy to any illegal drug usage," said Dubroff.
According to Air Force Instruction 44-120, Military Drug Demand Reduction Program, and AFI 44-121, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program, all use of designer synthetic chemicals and other intoxicating substances, excluding alcohol and tobacco, is strictly prohibited for airmen.
"Spice use can end a military member's career," said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Wikoff, 100th Air Refueling Wing Judge Advocate Office military justice non-commissioned officer in charge.
"Per AFI 36-3208, Administrative Separation of airmen, paragraph 5.54, drug abuse is incompatible with military service and airmen who abuse drugs, including Spice, one or more times are subject to discharge," Wikoff said. "After a commander takes action, such as Article 15 or court-martial, discharge processing is initiated."
The Air Force had 108 Spice-related court-martial cases in 2011, more than twice as many as in 2010, according to numbers released by the Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Military Justice Division. This equals nearly one-third of the Air Force's drug related court-martials of 2011.