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Spice 101: What is it? Where Does it Come From? What are the Side Effects?

With so much being said in the media about Spice, Patch takes a look at some cold hard facts about the synthetic drug. Also, listen to a young adult's first-hand account with the deadly substance.

It’s been cited as the cause of ’s death and is alleged to have influenced 19-year-old Farmington Hills resident ’s fatal attack on his family. It’s called Spice, or K2, but what exactly is this increasingly infamous substance?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines “Spice,” as “a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as ‘safe,’ legal alternatives to that drug.”

However, NIDA, law enforcement officials and doctors in the Metro Detroit area say the substance is anything but “safe.” 

Although Spice is commonly defined as “synthetic marijuana,” Dr. Sanford Vieder, director of  Emergency Trauma Center, said, “it really isn’t. Marijuana has a sedating effect … This stuff actually has the opposite effect.”

Made up of dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives, the drug has been known to have psychoactive, or mind-altering effects. There is a “hallucinogenic component,” Vieder said, adding that “violent reactions to even the slightest stimulus” can be caused by the substance.

NIDA calls the labels on Spice products “false advertising,” as they often claim to contain “natural” psycho-active material from plants but don’t immediately alert consumers to their active ingredients, which are primarily chemical additives.

What's in it?

Because the product is marketed as "not for human consumption," there is no requirement on the part of manufacturers to list packaging contents or ingredient amounts, and no two packages are the same.

Even beyond the dangers of its chemical additives, the herbal mixture itself may produce allergic reactions to sensitive users, according to Livestrong.com.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has designated five of the chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it is illegal to sell, buy or possess them. However, because these chemicals can be easily substituted for others that produce similar highs, manufacturers of Spice products are able to continue selling the product legally.

Commonly sold as incense or potpourri, users will smoke the substance in joints or pipes, or even make it into a tea to achieve a high.

What are its side effects?

According to a recent article in The Journal of School Safety, one in nine high school seniors has used synthetic marijuana in the past year.

The article states that the use of Spice is now the second most frequently used drug among high school seniors, second only to marijuana.

The Drug Enforcement Administration states that smoking spice gives a person psychological effects similar to those of marijuana, including paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness. It also can cause increase heart rates and blood pressure. Because the manufacturing of Spice is not regulated, the DEA states the combination or herbs and chemicals used can be potentially dangerous, and smoking the drug can cause serious reactions including nausea and, in at least one reported case, brain swelling.

How does it achieve a high?

The compound K2 affects the brain in the same way as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Both compounds bind to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which primarily affect the central nervous system, but K2's affect is about 10 times greater than THC, according to LiveScience.com.

In simple terms, this means smoking a small amount of K2 can prove just as potent as a larger amount of marijuana.

Where is it sold?

Typically, gas stations, head shops and the Internet. In response to public outrage over sale of the substance, and gas stations have recently asked their franchises to stop selling Spice and K2.

Manufacturers of Spice are not regulated and are often unknown since these products are often purchased over the Internet, according to the DEA. Several websites that sell the product are known to be based in China.

What does it look like?

Spice is typically sold in small, metalic plastic bags. The substance itself resembles dried leaves and is marketed as incense that can be smoked. It has also said to resemble potpourri.

What are other names for it?

Bilss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, Spice, Zohai, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, K2, Fake Pot

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Laura Vogel June 07, 2012 at 05:28 PM
ah, the "clove cigarettes" of today? Well, then, if the product has no other intended purpose other than to be 'consumed' by way of smoking/inhaling, then, unlike cans of paint thinner and other such otherwise legitimate products that can be misused to get high, if this product is designed solely for being smoked, then it would seem any ordinance to ban/regulate its sale would be quite easy to effect and enforce. This isn't like allowing or not allowing alcohol sales on Sunday mornings, not selling cigarettes to minors, and making people show i.d. and go to the pharmacy counter to get certain types of cold medications.
uknowimright June 08, 2012 at 08:44 AM
@Laura Vogel: clove cigarettes are not an equivalent of this K2/spice stuff. They're simply regular tobacco blended with pieces of clove to add aroma to the tobacco. Please save your ignorance for yourself and don't spread lies. Thank you.
Dave June 11, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Laura.. if you believe the manufacturers it is "supposed" to be used as an incense by placing a small bit of it on top of a hot coal. Although there are legitimate incenses in china that are used that way for meditation purposes.. this isn't one of em. Could you just imagine someone filling up a whole room with this poison's smoke? Especially with kids possibly inhaling it. Of course not.. and that's because not a single person uses this crap as inscence. It's called deceptive advertising. The only way this product is marketed is to be smoked. The "not intended for human consumption" on the label is supposedly to protect the stores and manufacturer from liability when someone uses it as the clerks tell them to do. I say it dosen't.. but of course there are numerous deaths caused by this poison in the past 12 years or so that it has been making it's way across the globe. There is something fishy as to why our politicians, our government agencies, and even our DEA has not shut them down permanently a long time ago. I don't buy this bull about them changing the formula to make it legal again. It's still poison, and it's still being sold deceptively to kids who believe it is as safe or safer than weed. It's not!! They lied! From what i've read most experts say it's ten to a hundred times as potent as THC from weed. And the effects are more like salvia than weed. Real weed has other chemicals which act as anti-psycotics.. this doesn't. It's the exact opposite.
Laura Vogel June 11, 2012 at 11:43 AM
thank you, Dave, for your thoughtful and detailed response.
Bobby Thompson July 20, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Dave is 100% correct. Spice is way stronger than marijuana and the effects are very, very different. Get more info on Spice @ http://SpiceAddictionSupport.org

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