Synthetic Marijuana (Spice)
Synthetic Marijuana (Spice)
What Is Spice?
Also known as: “K2,” “fake weed,” “Bliss,” “Black Mamba,” “Bombay Blue,” “Genie,” “Zohai,” “Yucatan Fire,” “Skunk,” and “Moon Rocks”
Spice is a mix of herbs (shredded plant material) and manmade chemicals with mind-altering effects. It is often called “synthetic marijuana” because some of the chemicals in it are similar to ones in marijuana; but its effects are sometimes very different from marijuana, and frequently much stronger.
Labeled “Not for Human Consumption” and disguised as incense, Spice has been available for purchase in head shops (stores that sell drug-related products), gas stations, and online.
Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the Drug Enforcement Administration has made the five active chemicals most frequently found in Spice illegal. However, the people who make these products try to avoid these laws by using different chemicals in their mixtures.
Sellers of Spice products try to lead people to believe they are “natural” and therefore harmless, but they are neither.
How Is Spice Used?
Most people smoke Spice by rolling it in papers (like with marijuana or handmade tobacco cigarettes); sometimes, it is mixed with marijuana. Some users also make it as an herbal tea for drinking.
How Does Spice Affect the Brain?
Some Spice users report feeling relaxed and having mild changes in perception. Users also report extreme anxiety, feeling like someone is out to get them (paranoia), and seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations).
Spice is a new drug so there is not much research on how it affects the brain. We do know that the chemicals found in Spice attach to the same nerve cell receptors as THC, the main mind-altering ingredient in marijuana. Some of the chemicals in Spice, however, attach to those receptors more strongly, which could lead to a much stronger and more unpredictable effect. We still don’t know what many of the products sold as Spice are actually made of, and therefore we can’t be sure how the chemicals in Spice will harm the user.
What Are the Other Effects of Spice?
In 2011, Spice was mentioned by patients in the emergency room 28,531 times. This is a drastic increase over the 11,406 mentions in 2010.1 People who have had bad reactions to Spice report symptoms like a fast heart rate, throwing up, feeling nervous, feeling confused, and hallucinations. Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause less blood to flow to the heart. In a few cases, it has been linked with heart attacks and death. People who use Spice a lot may have withdrawal and addiction symptoms.
We still do not know all the ways Spice may affect a person’s health or how toxic it may be, but it is possible that there may be harmful heavy metal residues in Spice mixtures.
Can You Get Addicted to Spice?
People who use Spice a lot may have withdrawal and addiction symptoms. This means they can’t stop using it even when they really want to and even after it causes terrible consequences to their health and other parts of their lives.
Can You Die If You Use Spice?
Yes. In a few cases, it has been linked with heart attacks and death.
1Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. Rockville, MD, May 2013.