Don't do Spice or drugs...It's not worth your career

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Tracy A. Neal-Walden
  • 95th Medical Operations Squadron commander
In the media there has been recent increased attention toward the use of drugs such as Spice and Salvia, which although not currently illegal according to civilian law they are still potentially quite dangerous, and they are illegal according to military law.

Why Are People Using These Drugs?

While it is common knowledge that illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine can have significant harmful side effects, many users incorrectly believe that drugs such as Spice are non-harmful (especially due to recent glamorization by celebrities). It is often believed to be a natural or safe way to relax or ―just have a little fun.‖ However, to the contrary, there are in fact significant potential side effects. The psychological effects reported by users not only include euphoria and giddiness, but also paranoia, hallucinations, extreme anxiety, panic attacks and even seizures. Physical effects may include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and in some cases nonresponsiveness which may lead to death. These drugs may be mixed with other harmful compounds and the drugs may be stored by the body for long periods of time. Thus, the long-term effects on humans are not fully known (Drug Enforcement Administration, 2010).

The Ramifications

In addition to the potential negative psychological and physical effects, the legal ramifications can be severe and career ending. Per AFI 44-121, paragraph 3.5.6 ―the knowing use of any intoxicating substance, other than the lawful use of alcohol or tobacco products that is inhaled, injected, consumed, or introduced into the body in any manner to alter mood or function is prohibited.‖ This includes the use of currently non-controlled substances such as Spice, naturally occurring substances such as Salvia, inhalants, propellants, solvents, household chemicals and other substances that are used in a manner contrary to their intended use. Use of these substances for illicit purposes is a violation of Article 92, UCMJ and will result in criminal prosecution under the UCMJ. Moreover, the Drug Enforcement Administration is currently deliberating on whether to label Spice as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which if approved will make it illegal in the civilian sector.

What Can We Do About it?

As a leader, a psychologist and a parent, I look at this situation as being multi-faceted. It's not about members making a ―dumb‖ mistake. The question is ―What leads our Airman (and our family members) to make the mistake of using drugs and what can we do about it.‖ There are many factors such as peer pressure, poor judgment, stress, etc. My recommendation for handling it goes back to the theme of getting back to the basics of our core values and in doing so providing good mentorship. Mentorship aids us in getting to know our folks and helping to prepare them for future challenges and future decision-making opportunities. Moreover, it allows us the opportunity to intervene or get appropriate intervention for those who may be struggling. Although we cannot control all the decisions our people make, through mentorship we can help to influence those decisions. Our Airmen are some of the best and brightest...let's work together to not let a mistake ruin a career or a life.

For more information regarding prevention of drug abuse please contact our Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist, Mr. Jon Fishman at 275-3395 or for information regarding stress management or other assistance in coping contact Mental Health at 277-5291.