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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, metallic 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?

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

For full coverage of the fight against Spice in Shelby Township and across Michigan, visit our topic page .

chris June 07, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I like that due to the fact that its often purchased over the internet is being used as a crutch they sure don't have an issue with stopping narcotics making it thru
Dave June 09, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I don't understand your comment Chris. No one will be able to purchase it online when it becomes a controlled substance next month, those sites will be shut down too. If you just wanna die i can mix ya up some poison right now...I could make this crap too, but what for? For money? This stuff they currently sell can kill ya.. that much we already know. That much they've known for a long time.. yet they sold it anyways. That's where the law was broken, and it was broken a long time ago when they first placed narcotics in party stores and gas stations disquised as normal products. That's when they broke the laws when they started lying to people and saying it was synthetic marijuana in order to fool them into thinking it was safer to smoke because it was in a store. It's NOT synthetic marijuana.. it'd be synthetic salvia if anything. And then they broke the laws by selling this crap as something to be smoked, even advising people it was to smoke like a joint, knowing that the packets all say "not for human consumption" That's the crimes here Chris. Not that they can make a poison.. but that they sell it to unsuspecting kids. And that has always been illegal to use deceptive advertising and marketing. That's why these store owners are committing a crime... not just because it kills people. For your statement about them not having an issue with stopping narcotics, I agree assuming you mean our government. Now i want to know why they allowed poison to be sold?

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