Air Force starts drug testing airmen for Spice
February 25, 2011
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Air Force has started drug testing airmen for synthetic forms of marijuana this week, making it the first service to announce such screening.
The announcement came from the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office on Tuesday and is part of an effort by the U.S. military and the federal government to stamp out the new group of designer drugs, which are commonly known as Spice and closely mimic the effects of marijuana.
Most of the military have barred the use of Spice, and in December the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency enacted an emergency nationwide ban on five compounds used to produce it.
But drug testing for Spice has remained rare.
It was unclear Friday what methods the Air Force is using to detect the ingredients used to produce Spice.
Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii said it could not immediately provide details on the testing. The 18th Wing Public Affairs Office at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa confirmed that airmen there are now subject to drug testing for Spice as part of the service-wide effort but could not provide additional details Friday.
Spice is typically made from up to five synthetic compounds that are sprayed onto herbs and smoked.
The drug produces a feeling of euphoria but can also cause panic attacks, hallucinations, vomiting and bouts of anger, according to the Air Force.
The service said last year that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was working to develop a urine and blood test for Spice. In July, a private California laboratory claimed to have developed the first urine tests that could detect compounds used in the drug.
Meanwhile, hundreds of servicemembers around the world have been kicked out or punished for use and possession in recent months, including a high-profile case involving seven U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen who were expelled in January.
The Air Force said in a news release this week that it meted out nonjudicial punishment to 177 airmen and referred 83 to courts-martial for Spice use last year.
About 150 sailors have recently been booted from the military because they used the drug, the U.S. Navy said earlier this month.