The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Incense poses new drug problem

Until this school year, a freshman, who wishes to remain anonymous, thought of incense as something that simply smells good. So, when her friends asked her if she wanted to smoke it with them, she was a bit caught off-guard.

“I was like … ‘Is this legit? Is this what you’re supposed to do with it? Or is this just something you came up with on your own?’” she said.

The synthetic cannabinoid, which goes by several names, including “Spice,” “K2” and “Genie,” is ultimately intended for consumption, said Chris McHenry, a Sacred Heart Emergency Room registered nurse.

McHenry said he has dealt with three cases of patients admitted under the influence of herbal marijuana since January 1. Overall, he said the hospital has probably seen 10 cases with patients ranging from 15 to 24 years of age.

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While the drug does produce a similar high to that of marijuana, McHenry said, from what he’s seen and studied, there are differences.

“People who take marijuana typically are very mellow,” he said. “Many people (who have consumed herbal incense) come in and they’re agitated. They’re yelling, screaming, crying … and once it starts to wear off they become apologetic.”

Dean of students Brian Carlisle has seen several cases of students going to the hospital as a result of smoking herbal incense. He said he hopes this does not become a trend among students because he has seen the drug produce “nasty responses.”

McHenry said smoking synthetic marijuana can result in hallucinations, agitation, delirium, increased heart rate, anxiety and short-term memory loss.

Carlisle said he understands that college is a time when students will experiment and push the limits, but he wants students to recognize that there are dangerous chemicals in herbal incense.

“I would strongly encourage (students) to let this be something they just don’t try,” he said.

Azara Hookah, 624 Water St., sells a form of herbal incense called “Chill.” Employee Jesse Fricke said it is not sold with the intent of consumers smoking it. In fact, the front of the package says “not for human consumption.” She said it smells like berries and can be used like traditional incense.

However, Fricke said consumers can also pack it into a bowl and smoke it, which she said is very popular right now.

“It’s our biggest seller — by far,” she said.

The City of Eau Claire passed an ordinance in August 2010 prohibiting the possession, use and sale of certain synthetic cannabinoids. The ordinance states that anyone in violation of the ordinance can be fined between $100 and $500.

City Council President Kerry Kincaid said the “Chill” substance, a K3 herbal incense, that Azara sells does not fit any of the trade names listed in the ordinance, making it legal to possess, use and sell.

However, McHenry said he strongly urges anyone not to consume the drug because there is simply not enough data as to what effects the synthetic chemicals have on the body long-term. Carlisle expressed similar sentiments, adding that in terms of risk, ingesting herbal incense is too high.

“I really do want our students to take full advantage of their growth and development, but I want them to make wise choices,” he said. “This is not a wise choice. I would say this is a deadly choice.”

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Incense poses new drug problem