NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
Find NIDA for Teens on: NIDAnews on Twitter NIDANIH on YouTube NIDANIH on Facebook

Spice: "If You Use It, You're Experimenting on Yourself"

Sara Bellum
April 19, 2012

Ask NIDA scientist Marilyn A. Huestis, Ph.D., what she wants to tell young people about the synthetic (manmade) marijuana called Spice, and she responds with passion. In a recent interview with SBB, Dr. Huestis shared a news story about teens in Dallas who went to the ER with chest pains, only to learn that they had had heart attacks. All of them had recently smoked Spice.

Dr. Huestis said that dangerous health effects from Spice are possible because of the drug’s potency. “Using Spice is very dangerous because the chemicals and compounds that are in it vary from batch to batch. You might buy a package one week, go back to the same place and buy the exact same package the next week, and the ingredients may be completely different. Not only are the ingredients unknown, but so is the strength of the drug,” she said.

“Because its makeup varies so widely, studying Spice is a challenge,” said Dr. Huestis. “Essentially, if you use it, you’re experimenting on yourself.”

That experimentation could result in other life-threatening health complications. According to a recent news story out of Wyoming, three young people were hospitalized with kidney failure from using blueberry-flavored Spice. A dozen other people got sick. Everyone affected was in their late teens or early 20s.

Use Is Expanding

NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study asked teens about synthetic marijuana for the first time in the 2011 survey. What they found: Approximately 1 in every 10 high school seniors reported use in the past 12 months. Teens and young adults may be drawn to Spice because sometimes it comes in flavors.

Even though it’s illegal in the United States, Spice is still available in some truck stops and other places that market it as incense. Dr. Huestis said this is because manufacturers are constantly changing the ingredients to attempt to get around the bans. However, the United States does have an “analog law,” which bans drugs with chemistry and effects similar to illegal drugs.

“We’re learning more about Spice and how it works in the body and brain every day,” said Dr. Huestis. “Research is focusing on the body’s cannabinoid system, which regulates hunger, memory, and heart rate, among many other important functions. Spice and marijuana hijack this system.”

Read more about Spice.

Comments

Are you aware of any information regarding second hand exposure of spice to infants? We have a foster child (8 months old) that we know has been exposed to it via breast feeding but don't know how much through second hand smoke.

So far, the effects of Spice have only been tested in the lab, so very little is known about its dangers in humans. It’s difficult to predict the effects of prenatal and neonatal exposure to any toxic substance - much less to a drug with as many varieties as Spice. You should raise this concern with your pediatrician, since early detection and treatment of possible consequences can go a long way to ensuring your child stays healthy. Research does show that quality parenting can overcome most effects of early drug exposure. @Patrick, it sounds like you are a “quality” parent. Thank you for fostering.

my name is Mark and I did have a heart attack I believe from using space. after smoking it for about 6-7 months every time I took a hit out get some chest pains but never really thought about it. then one day at work I had just took a hit of spice and I had massive chest pains I went to the hospital and had a heart attack. spices not cool its garbage

I am 54 and smoked it because I couldn't get medical marijuana for my PTSD. It almost made me have a heart attack and gave me seizures. Get wise, legalize marijuana! It's harmless as medicine.

When you smoke marijuana you are not only harming yourself you are harming other people. Drugs are bad. Second hand smoke is not the only way you can hurt other people other than yourself. If you drive when you are high you can hurt yourself more than the marijuana already has and you can hurt other people whether they are with you or not. Be smart and don't smoke because you are hurting other people besides you.

have you ever smoked? if you havent then there is no way you can sit here and tell people how bad it is and all that. Know facts kid.
well I don't do drugs or spice and I walkd passed a person smoking spice and felt like I was losing my mind within minutes. so maybe you need to know the facts

@psychnurse Spice is a fairly new substance and we still have much to learn, especially about detox. We do know that Spice abusers who have been taken to Poison Control Centers and emergency rooms report symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations, and in a few cases, has been associated with heart attacks.

You may want to contact your local poison control center and/or hospital for advice on how to treat these serious symptoms of overdose until paramedics can arrive. You could also try this Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator (http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/) to contact facilities near you and try to find out how they are treating people who have abused Spice.

IVE USED "SPICE" AS YOU WOULD CALL IT AND IT IS HORRIBLE. IT ONLY LAST FOR ABOUT 15 MINUTES AND IT HAS A HIGH THAT IS LIKE POT BUT NOT AS GOOD. I SMOKE BECAUSE I DON'T LIKE BEING ON MEDS FOR MY STRESS OR PANIC ATTACKS AND IT HAS SEEMED TO HELP ME ALOT MORE THAN MEDS HAVE. I NEVER TOUCHED IT UNTILL I WAS 22 AND I AGREE WITH ALL ITS BENIFITS. K2 HELPS NONE OF THAT! IT SHOULD BE ILLEGIAL AND NOT SOLD ANYWHERE. KIDS SMOKE IT BECAUSE IT DOESN'T SHOW ON DRUG SCREENS AND BECAUSE IT SEEMS HARMLESS. WELL IF YOUR THINKING ABOUT TRYING IT, IT ISN'T HARMLESS. IT HURTS UR BODY AND WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE ABOUT TO DIE. NOT FUN OR HELPFULL AT ALL. I CAN'T SAY THAT YOU SHOULD DO THE REAL THING BUT HONESTLY I DON'T KNOW ANYONE THAT IT HAS HURT. AND I KNOW THAT IT HAS HELPED ME WITH MY PROBLEMS. SO AS LONG AS YOU DON'T SIT AT HOME EVERYDAY AND LET IT BE ALL THAT YOU DO WITH YOUR LIFE THEN I SEE NO PROBLEM WITH SOMEONE SMOKEING IN THE PRIVOSY OF THIER OWN HOME.

@NOT FOR IT BUT IT'S NOT A BAD THING... Thank you for your comment. While we agree with you that Spice is very dangerous, marijuana is not harmless.

@Globetrotta CAN I ASSUME THAT YOU HAVE NO HEALTH PROBLEMS AND MOST LIKELY HAVE NEVER TRIED IT YOUR SELF? DON'T JUDGE PEOPLE THAT WOULD RATHER USE AN ALL NATURAL CURE FOR THE ILLNESS THAT EFFECTS THEM. ANYTHING CAN KILL YOU NOW DAYS SO THE WAY I SEE IT YOUR MORE PRONE TO BE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING THAN TO DIE FROM POT. I HAVE NEVER KNOWN ANYONE WHO HAS "DIED" FROM IT. SO DON'T HATE.

@NOT FOR IT BUT IT'S NOT A BAD THING... Actually, @Globetrotta is absolutely right. Marijuana affects a driver’s attention, perception of time and speed, and judgment. In addition, the more marijuana in your system when driving, the more likely you will be the cause of a deadly accident.

Wow, this is very eye-opening. I have a friend who owns a truck driving school (commercial link removed, per guidelines) and I'm going to tell him that Spice is marketed as incense at truck stops to see if he can include some drug training to his students. I know a lot of young kids go to his school and since they are in a position to be driving on our roads, I think it should be part of their education.

can this lead to suicide

There have been reports that a few people have attempted suicide after consuming “Spice.” But, at this time, there is no evidence that these people attempted suicide because they took Spice. Actually, there is not a lot of research on Spice and, so far, there have been no scientific studies of its effects on the human brain. We do know that some users report psychotic effects like extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations—and Spice abusers who have been taken to Poison Control Centers and ERs report symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. For more information on Spice, visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/spice-synthetic-marijuana.

SPICE HAD BECOME THE NEW CRACK!!!! TO ALL YOU USERS YOU JUST DONT KNOW WHAT ITS LIKE FOR A LOVED ON TO LOOK AT YOU STONED OUT OF YOUR [expletive deleted, per guidelines] MIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT IS NOTHING LIKE A POT HIGH.!!!
AND WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS ON THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU!?!? ALL THAT I SEE IS NOTHING BUT A NEW FORM OF CRACK FROM THE 80'S!!!!!

This is scary. As a parent of teenagers, I try to keep abreast on all of these drugs that can be easily obtained. I am very open and honest with my kids in discussing the dangers of drug use. More and more kids are having heart related issues due to use of energy drinks, as well. Good healthy education is key and it starts in the home!
it can lead to suicide! i actually had a friend who had smoked ''spice'', which started making him hallucinate. he claimed that someone was chasing him and it was making him scared. after a bout five minutes of that he said he couldn't take it anymore and he killed himself
what are some good ways to get a frien to stop uesing spice ..she cant even buy milk for her kids

@me The situation does sound troubling. If your friend’s spice use is causing her to neglect her other responsibilities (like caring for her kids), she may have an addiction that needs professional care. There are many counseling-type treatments that are helpful in getting people off drugs, and the best thing you can do for her is encourage her to seek treatment. This site will help her find a treatment program in her area; she can also call 1-800-662-HELP.

Good luck.

 

Spice is worse than poison, because people know poison is poison. Sounds stupid right? Well, that's what spice is, and there is plenty of research to prove it. There is nothing good that can come of it, and the chances are good that any user will suffer long term or permanent effects. It destroys the neurotransmitters like a nuclear bomb, compared to marijuana being like a BB gun. No kidding. Stay away from it!!!!
Marijuana is not like the marijuana from the 60's, 70's . The growers us dangerous chemicals to make the plants more potent, One of the chemicals used is illegal in the United States. It's killing our wildlife animals, and getting into our drinking water. They are also using gout medication and pure O2 to make the plants bigger. I use to say that merijuana was okay, but today with what I know. NONE of it is harmless. It's all BAD
I'm 18 and i have been smoking spice for almost 3 years, (but i also have been clean for about a week and a half now), but 1 problem i keep experiencing is with my throat, underneath my tonsils. But they keep getting swollen only on 1 side at a time though. I'm not to sure what is under them but i know its really starting to freak me out.Also when i was using i would always get really bad stomach pains and severe head aches that would result in a clear like substance leaking out of my nose. Well this scared the living crap out of me. (sorry for the language). Those are some of the reasons i stopped . And I'm not sure what a heart attack is like but the last time i smoked i was hitting it then about 5 minutes later both of my ears sounded hallow. Then i had a really high pitch ringing in my ears.Then my hole left half of my body started to hurt and tremble a little bit. (but i was also using methamphetamine at the same time.(I'm not a constant user of this drug for the fact that i like to get my 8 hours everyday). but anyways i didn't get a tight pressure in my chest like people described to me though. If anyone has any compliments on what they think could be going on in my body from me details i described above pleas please leave a reply!? .. also if anyone thinks that this situation sounds fatal or deadly and thinks i need to go see someone about this please feel free to tell me. I'm really scared that i might loose my life and I haven't even started my life yet.
Spice is horrible. It never made me hullusinate but one day I smoked it and it made my heart start racing. I told my friend that I thought I was just tripping out, but i told her to feel my heart and make sure it was beating normal. Well she felt it and when she did I seen the look on her face, it was beating so fast she said it felt like it was about to explode out of my back! So I ran inside and got the machine to check my heart rate. It was rising up to 235 and still going. I was so scared. I was very dizzy and tears just started pouring out of my eyes. I started to call the ambulance but was scared of getting in trouble for smoking it. So i wet my face with cold water and kept repeating to myself "calm down, calm down, everything is gonna be ok, calm down,calm down. Finally I was ok. I have never smoked it since. To all you fellow spice smokers, yall are the stupidest most retarted stubern people on this earth.. I tried tellin you.. So whoevr smokes it and has read this comment,,,, """" You know the consequences of smoking spice, and if you are still smking it, you will probably be dead soon or either your brain will be so fried you wont even be able to read this crap anymore."""" So my advice is you read this now and listen to these people on here and STOP SMOKING SPICE!!!!!!!
spice is bad . alot of people have have ended in the hospital and some have even died from it . but its up to the consumer if they want to change.
MY SON AND HIS GIRLFRIEND SMOKE THIS FAKE MARIJUANA AROUND THIER 8 MONTH OLD BABY IT WORRYS ME TO DEATH.HAS ANY ONE HEARD OF SIDE EFFECT IN BABYS THAT BREATH THE SECOND HAND SMOKE OF THIS DRUG SPICE

@LIZ, You're right to be worried--all secondhand smoke, whether from cigarettes, marijuana, Spice, or any other drug, contains toxins that can be harmful, especially to a child. But unfortunately, Spice is so new that the effects of secondhand smoke have not been studied. (We don't even know much yet about the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke, on children or adults.) It is important to impress on your son and his girlfriend that they are not only risking their own health but potentially that of their baby.

Just a little FYI. When a mother is delivering her baby, they do a drug test on her and the placenta. Spice shows up on a drug test as METH. My daughter thought she was being smart by smoking spice instead of weed during pregnancy. She almost lost custody of her child because of spice.
im confused as this spice shows up as meth on a drug test. Why do they say that it doesn't show up on a drug test. Some people are smoking spice for that reason of being undetected. You are saying that it would be detected on a full drug screen. I could have my daughter tested at her employer just by making a phone call. If it actually shows up she could lose her job and then maybe she would wake up! THIS DRUG SOUNDS AS DANGEROUS AS METH!!!
Kudos to this site and the response/interaction rate from NIDA! I am a therapist in RI and currently researching and compiling a list of websites and blogs to provide to my clientele. Thank you for your efforts!!
Well I am just finding out about this drug since my 19 year old daughter has admitted using it to me. I am glad she was honest with me. I am also a nurse and have started doing research. This drug is on the cdc website as causing acute renal failure, strokes. This drug can cause permanent damage even with one use. I am very concerned for my daughter, and if anyone has anymore information they can share I would greatly appreciate it. Unfortunately since my daughter is over 18 and since this drug is not illegal there is nothing I can do to force help on my child, this fact makes me very angry. I just finished reading how a 17 year old girl had a massive stroke due to this drug. I dont get it , how much more damage has to be done before this is made illegal.

@Concerned Mom

It is very hard when you learn that someone you are close to may be struggling with drug abuse. You are smart to learn what you can about spice so you can act as a resource for your daughter. If your daughter decides that she is ready to seek help there are anonymous resources, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and the Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-HELP), that may be a good place for her to start.

You can find more information about spice on the NIDA for Teens site at: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/spice and on the NIDA site at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/k2spice-synthetic-marijuana.

Spice is illegal in the United States, you can find more information about spice in the Sara Bellum Blog post, “’Spice’ – Not as Fun as it Sounds”: http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/spice-not-fun-it-sounds-0.

Add new comment