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The NIDA Blog Team

A lot of the time, Spice (sometimes called “fake marijuana” or K2) is packaged and sold as a mixture of harmless “natural” herbal or plant ingredients. But though Spice products may contain dried plants (like tea leaves), what makes them a drug are the synthetic (man-made) chemicals the plant material is coated with.  

Those chemicals are anything but “natural,” and the number of them keeps growing: in 2009, two synthetic chemicals were found in Spice; in 2012, that number had climbed to 57.

What Chemicals Are in Spice? 

You just can’t know for sure.

The director of a poison control center said this about the chemicals in Spice: “These are literally laboratory chemicals, they have nothing to do with marijuana....This is not pharmaceutical grade anything.”

Even when officials do figure it out and make the chemicals illegal, the Spice makers just start using different chemicals. Then whenever new laws make the new chemicals illegal, the producers change the chemicals again. There seems to be an endless supply of nasty chemicals they can put in these products.  

But What We Do Know, Isn’t Good

Spice makers will sometimes coat the leaves with roach spray, like Raid, to help cover up other chemicals that might be traceable to the Spice producer. A chemical used in the early days of Spice production, JWH 018, is so dangerous it’s been labeled as toxic poison. 

If you don’t know what it’s made of, there’s no way to predict what it will do to you. As one expert said, “Who knows what dose [Spice users] are getting. One time you get a little tingly, the next time you're in ICU....It's kind of Russian Roulette, really."

It’s a gamble more people seem to be losing. In 2010, Poison Control Centers got over 2,900 calls involving Spice; in 2015, by June 3, they had received almost 7,000 calls about it. The majority of the calls were about people having a stroke or seizure because Spice spiked their heart rate. Spice can cause reactions even worse than that: paralysis, kidney damage, brain damage...the list goes on.

Bottom line, if you’re offered the chance to get high off of “fake marijuana,” keep in mind that nobody can say what’s in the batch of Spice you end up with. And do you really want to trust what a drug dealer says? You may get more than you bargained for, and not in a good way.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


During my drug use i found this to be extremely addictiv! Clean for nearly 2 years now. Appreciate your informative posts.
A young man tried to break into my home tonight because he was out of his mind on K2 does not remember how he got here things could have went bad real quick tonight he ended up in the hospital just from that fake marijuana not from me shooting him like I was getting ready to do

This sounds like a terrible incident. Using drugs starts innocently enough but can pull you into desperate situations that can have disastrous results.

I smoked spice regularly while it was legal but have not used it since.has their been any studies on the long term effects?

There have been no studies on the long term effects of “Spice”—in part because this is not just one specific drug. Spice is basically a plant that is sprayed with chemicals to product a “high,” but the chemicals used are not consistent. However, smoking any potentially toxic chemicals for a long period of time could cause damage to the lungs and mouth, not to mention the brain. Because the chemical composition of many products sold as Spice is unknown, it is likely that some varieties also contain substances that could cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect. Will you have problems because you smoked it in the past? We just don’t know. Congratulations on having the intelligence to stop.

My mother used it for 16 years and it gave her kidney failure, epilepsy, and major brain damage, it basically killed my mom.
Any tips of how you stopped or how we can help someone stop the use

For information on drug treatment, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help. Visit the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator online at or call 1-800-662-HELP.

what if u just dont care
then you propably end up in hospital?
I see that this stuff has become a choice for lots of the homeless folk , for probably more than two reasons. yet when this stuff gets in the hands of the naive youngsters with its LEGAL High Myth the Damage gets worse. Maybe a video on how this stuff is produced right down to one of the Lab workers taking a dump in the mixing vat should be shown in all schools. You really want to smoke human excrement ? Then smoke legal high SPICE...(FACT)....
The simple solution surely is to legalise marijuana. People have been smoking it for centuries, and probably will be smoking it for centuries in the future and that will never change. I don't have a problem with people dissuading others from smoking it, having age restrictions and educating people of its effects, which I would encourage. I believe people have a right of choice.
My son started using spice to help break his addiction to opioids. He is worse on the spice than he ever was on the opioids.
Been given it only once on the party without knowing. Friend of my died that night and I was fighting for my life in BRI and survived. Horrible experience, please never ever try it.
My hubby and I both almost died from smoking spice. After only 6 months of use, we were both not only addicted, we found our health in serious decline. I was hospitalized for excessive fluid surrounding my heart and filling my lungs. My kidneys were beginning to shut down and my body was storing water. We turned to Spice to deal with chronic pain so we could continue to work at our respective jobs. Which in the end we lost anyways due to the health complications. We have both been clean now for going on 6 years. Never looking back. Not even tempted.

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