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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.

Several police departments in communities across Metro Detroit – including Northville – have called for businesses to stop selling the synthetic substance known as Spice or K2.

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

Debra L. Van Buren June 09, 2012 at 04:23 AM
I have absolutely no desire to experiment with synthetic marijuana. Although my teenage years are far behind me, I cannot imagine and/or understand the widespread interest in Spice, K2 and other such designer drugs among our youth today. The dangers associated with the use of such drugs has been highly publicized. In my opinion, experimentation with synthetic drugs is merely a "fad," and will die off or lessen along with the enactment of strong legislation making the drug(s) illegal. Websites that sell such drugs must have clearly defined laws that prohibit such action, and continual monitoring by law enforcement agencies will no doubt be necessary. Not everyone goes by the rules . . . Besides, human nature often tempts even the best of society. Rules and regulations exist to protect society and ultimately prevent chaos among its members. Laws must be enacted and/or modified to cover existing loopholes when deemed necessary as a means of ensuring the welfare of its citizens. Citizens who do not abide by the law(s) must be held accountable. . .
Screech June 25, 2012 at 03:44 PM
The kids only smoke it because it's LEGAL. That's where the fascination came from. The kids get busted for smoking pot (a PLANT that has been proven to have nothing but POSITIVE effects and has NEVER killed anybody) so they turn to this stuff. If anything, blame marijuana prohibition. It's clearly a safer alternative and it's about time it got some recognition. If something isn't done about marijuana prohibition, synthetic drugs will just keep appearing. All they have to do is slightly change the chemical formula, label it as incense, and then boom, a new legal substance. If you want to end the spice - k2 craze, it's gonna have to start with pot legalization.

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