K2/Spice

synthetic cannabinoids

What is it?

Spice consists of dried shredded plant material coated with man made chemical compounds. These chemicals are called synthetic cannabinoids because they are similar to the chemicals found in the marijuana plant. It typically comes in colorful small bags that can be sold legally at most smoke shops. Other names besides spice/K2 include "synthetic marijuana" and "fake weed".

Medical Use and Interactions With Other Drugs

Synthetic Cannabinoids do have a place in the medical field, but its safe to assume that these drugs are far safer and more well regulated than what is found on the streets. One example is the drug Marinol. It used to treat patients with AIDS by stimulating their appetite and comes in the form of a pill. It can also be helpful to chemotherapy patients by reducing nausea and vomiting. Spice and Marinol should not be mixed with other drugs including alcohol and marijuana. If spice is combined with other drugs, the chance of a fatal overdose skyrockets.

How is it administered?

The process of using spice is very similar to that of marijuana. Primarily it is smoked. One may use a pipe, joint or bong for this delivery system. It is also becoming increasingly popular to vaporize the active ingredients in their liquid form. The liquid is easier to hide and can be found at public stores with labels like "herbal incense" and "not for human consumption". In addition to this spice can be infused into baked goods or brewed as a tea.

Physical and Psychological Effects

The long and short term effects of spice are not well studied and can be unpredictable. This is the case for two reasons in particular. First, spice is a relatively new drug and as a result no conclusive studies have been conducted. Also, the chemical formula in spice can vary greatly. Typical effects can include, euphoria, altered perception, and decreased awareness of surroundings. Other effects are confusion, paranoia and hallucinations. The physical effects are increased heart rate, vomiting and in extreme cases kidney damage or seizures. People may also become irritated or enter a psychotic state, resulting in violence.
The Hard Lives of Britain's Synthetic Marijuana Addicts

How Long do The Effects Last?

The duration of a spice high can vary depending on what the chemical makeup is. Users describe the general effects as lasting from 1-8 hours and in some cases up to 24 hours. This is possible considering that traces of the drug can be found in the blood up to 3 days after use. When smoked, the drug will take effect in 5-10 minutes. It is rather strong and only takes one or two inhales to produce effects. When ingested orally, it will take 20-40 minutes. A spice users brain may be permanently altered even if they discontinue use. Withdrawal from spice can be lengthy and difficult. Detoxing may take weeks or longer. Some users claim to still crave the drug years after quitting. Others compare the withdrawals with those of heroin and other hard drugs.

Tolerance/Withdrawal/Overdose

Synthetic Cannabinoids can be addictive, users who try to quit will often face withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include headaches, anxiety, depression and irritability. Users report that they can build up a tolerance to spice. They will require more of the drug to get the same effect after daily use. Overdoses have been known to happen. Reduced blood flow to the heart results in heart attacks in some users. Still it is more common for people to die from actions committed while on spice. In their vulnerable state, people may jump off buildings or run into traffic, etc. There are thousands of emergency room visits each year pertaining to the use of spice.

Laws and Social Concerns

The laws on Spice are loosely regulated and constantly have to be changed. This is because the chemical makeup of the drug varies. Producers try to stay one step ahead of the law. When one chemical is outlawed, they begin using another one.


One big concern is availability to teens. The drug is typically packaged in bright colorful labels. As a result many young people underestimate it's harmful effects. Because the chemical makeup is so varied, the effects of the drug are unpredictable. A user may get one experience using the drug and have a totally different reaction to the next batch he buys.

'Spice' Drug, AKA 'K2' Or 'Potpourri,' Is Legal Popular Among Teens In Southern California VIDEO)

Support Systems for Addicts

Support specific to spice addiction is still developing. Mental therapy and medications for the treatment of spice withdrawal have not been tested. This is because spice is still relatively new and not much research on spice has been conducted. Still rehab centers are aware of the spice problem and most are willing to offer help.