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Drugs & Health Blog

Spice Is Not Fake Marijuana—Not Even Close

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

Spice, also known as K2 or “synthetic (manmade) marijuana,” is not nice. News stories tell of some really bad effects, like one teen who was paralyzed after using the drug. And the deaths of 3 young people earlier this year in Iowa were also linked to Spice.

With marijuana use continuing to rise and more states considering making it legal, it is important to get the word out that Spice is not fake marijuana. Calling Spice “fake pot” is just a marketing ploy to attract people to try it, making them believe that it is something familiar.

In fact, some effects of Spice are much more intense than those of marijuana. Some users experience extreme anxiety, paranoia (believing someone is out to get you), and hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren’t real).

People also report a fast heart rate, vomiting, agitation, and confusion. Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart, and in a few cases it has been linked with heart attacks. People who use it a lot may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms.

Marijuana does not cause paralysis like in the Texas teen. Spice needs to be treated as a dangerous drug in its own right, not just a manmade form of marijuana.

The good news is that Spice use is down, especially among high school seniors, who seem to be getting the message that it’s not a drug to mess with. That’s one particularly bright spot in NIDA’s 2013 Monitoring the Future statistics.

Visit DrugFacts: Spice for more information.

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.


Thanks for your post
i feel good about knowing that i know i can tell people not to
thats true i feel as if spice is a complete mystery you never know whats in it if they still make it or not and if yor able to get it on the streets or stores etc i just feel like its crazy especially with all of these research chemicals and what the distributers do like how every time a new regulation takes place they just modify the structure of the chemicle itself.
Ive been smoking spice for 3 months... Ive had good experiences and one bad one... To be honest spice is not that bad of a drug... It truly is like weed, It depends on the batch. If u find the right one like I have you will understand and realize there's nothing wrong with a little spice in your life.
You will get what's coming too you. Trust me
well u shouldnt be doing any drug period but thats your life not mine so go ahead if u want your life to be a living hell for u.
The problem is that when you use "spice" you really don't know what you are using. Producers are not concerned for your life, they are just concerned with money and staying out of jail. They alter the formula often so that police will have more difficulty charging them. Spice is unpredictable, and just because you have not had damage from what you have used so far, that doesn't mean the next batch you buy won't hurt you.
Good post.
my buddie almost died from "spice", its a very bad drug, that can kill.
i feel bad for your friend or buddy bless their heart
I didn't even know this stuff existed - thanks for the info otherwise I probs woulda tried it :T
W.O.W your not the only one
What is the spice so I can avoid it later on. THX

Hi Gareth, Spice the drug is not a spice you would use for cooking.  It's slang, or a nickname, for a dangerous synthetic drug.  Check out Molly, Spice, and Orange Crush: Slang for Dangerous Drugs to learn why drug dealers give their products cute or trendy names.

I can see why this..... "product" can be seen as a substitute for marijuana as it looks and gives "the same effect"(for users that haven't had marijuana) as it. This makes it even more dangerous considering the fact that it is a lot worse than marijuana.
thankyou helpful for my paper
thank you:)
Isn't this a great advertisement for legal marijuana? With a relatively harmless substance like cannabis made illegal, people turn to dangerous, untested, legal highs like spice.
I think another thing that needs to be put out in order for people to avoid this is a good description of the product. It is often marketed under names that are similar to names of types of actual marijuana. It also almost never has the ingredients listed usually instead the names of harmless plants that some some people seem to think will make you high. Forwarning: it is not the plants that are making you high! It is special powders created in labs that are sprinkled onto the plants. I have heard horror stories of people new to pot being sold this instead.
Where is the knowledge in this description? The so called facts are as overly broad as the term "Spice" is. They are so overly broad that it's entirely possible to replace the word "Spice" with 'caffeine" If we are going to educate our youth with such uninformative articles such as this, we can only expect utter failure.

Tim, the description of Spice is broad because it is a synthetic drug that contains many different and constantly changing chemicals. As we outlaw each harmful ingredient in Spice, the manufacturers simply change the recipe and use different chemicals to evade law enforcement.  These chemicals are extremely dangerous and unpredictable—which is why the label frequently says "not for human consumption."  This purpose of this article is to let teens know that Spice in not, in fact, fake marijuana.  For more information about Spice, check out Drug Facts: Spice.

You are correct, Spice can not be defined. I feel the article did not do enough to explain that the psychoactive substances are not found within a plant. That the plant material is just a base to coat with these synthesized substances. Many people still believe That "Spice" is descriptive of some type of plant. Thank You for the reply

That's an interesting point that could be clearer, Tim.  "Spice" is not a plant - which is the point we try to make when we say it is not fake marijuana.  The psychoactive elements in Spice are primarily the result of the synthetic chemicals used.  Though, we don't exactly know how the herbs, or plant material used, interact with those chemicals. Research is underway, with results coming soon.  For now, being that there are so many unknowns about Spice, we feel it is best to advise everyone to stay away from it.  

With the lack of enough research we do not know what harm these chemicals pose right now. To use the terms harmful, extremely dangerous, and unpredictable is more suggestive of personal opinion not scientific fact. In fact some may have medicinal properties and useful purposes, we just don't know. "Not for human consumption" is the point that needs to be made. Our youth does not need to be an unknowingly research subject.

Large amounts of anecdotal data, emergency room admission reports, and poison control call center data generally support the position that the chemicals in Spice are harmful.  They have high potential for abuse and seemingly no medical value.  NIDA is conducting scientific research on Spice, but in the meantime, we have to make sure teens understand the risk of using these substances.  

So little is known about these analogs that it's impossible to make any factual statements. These are research chemicals Not for Human Consumption. Those that market them to appeal to our youth as a legal "high" should be prosecuted. Would we allow Shell Petroleum to market gasoline as these companies do "Spice". Huffing gas can get you high. Then why do we allow the sellers of these analogs to do so?

Efforts have been made to outlaw the sale and marketing of these chemicals.  However, manufacturers regularly change the chemicals they are using to avoid the laws.  Any other questions about the legality of drugs should be directed to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

I Hate the fact that Spice is Legal even tho its not ment for smoking yet many people abuse it and i'm sure the companies know it.I have an old friend he used to be my old Blaze buddy we would smoke every day until he got introduced to spice. I dont see him around much anymore but when I do I just feel sad, because he looks lost and brain dead. also he tried to stab one of my friends when he was high on it. when I see him I talk to him and tell him about what hes doing, but he doesn't seem to understand. I am now @ a Challenge program named Grizzly Youth Academy to turn my life around to stop doing drugs. and I sometimes wonder if he is still alive, but I pray for him. JUST NEVER SMOKE SPICE.
That's my life right there I use to have a little smoke group with a couple of friends and one day we were outa weed and this one dude offered spice said it was just alike but better. Ever sense that day we all just drifted some towards addiction and away from each other every now we run into each other but it's not the same
drugs are bad kiddies
spice is not pot everybody should know this because weed DOSEN'T KILL spice can kill because its not weed also said as 'fake pot" witch is exactly what it if fake pot
I dont care
I don;t either
“What’s the range of age that people usually take Spice?”

Spice is more popular among high school students than among college students and young adults. In 2015, past-year use of Spice was reported by 3.1 percent of 8th graders, 4.3 percent of 10th graders, 5.8 percent of 12th graders, 1.5 percent of college students, and 1.5 percent of young adults (ages 19-28). We don’t have data for usage among people older than 28.
University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future Study