Drugs & Health Blog

“Spice” – Not as Fun as it Sounds

Image courtesy of Coolidge Youth Coalition

Sara Bellum

Spice—also known as K2, Fake Marijuana, Skunk, and other names—is a synthetic (or man-made) substance made from shredded dried plant materials and chemicals.  Spice appears to stimulate the same brain receptors—molecules that recognize specific chemicals and transmit messages into cells—as marijuana does and produces a similar “high.”

Like marijuana, Spice is usually abused by smoking, but it can be prepared as a drink.

Because Spice is marketed as being “natural,” some people may think it’s safe to use.  But the ingredients used to make Spice can vary, and no one’s watching to see what people producing Spice are using—meaning the results could have dangerous effects on your body and brain.  Some mixtures even contain harmful metal residues.

Nothing Nice

Spice is illegal in the United States and in most European countries.  The U.S. Naval Academy recently expelled seven midshipmen for using it.

Spice products are labeled “not fit for human consumption” and are illegal in the United States and most European countries. Its side effects, like the ingredients, often vary, but emergency rooms report seeing people with rapid heart rates, vomiting, agitation, and hallucinations.

Using Spice can lead to abuse and even addiction as the body builds up tolerance to the drug’s effects over time and craves a higher dose to achieve the same effect.

So, SBB’s recommendation?  Get your highs the natural way: exercise, friends, music, whatever you like to do—without altering your brain’s chemistry!

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.


I have read all comments on spice addiction and this hit home I have a son that is addicted to spice (bang-bang ) his behavior has become completly horrible if he cant find the money he steals from us we have lost so much to this adiitiction no one has commented on this we are at breaking point have taken him to er several times they drug test him clean no help for something that dont showup is there really any help to get them off this stuff i am very concerned on long term effects as well as daily behavior any suggestions

I smoked spice over 3 months ago. And it really scared me, I felt as if I was having a panic attack. I think there is some long term side effects like feeling in a "dreamlike" state. But correct me if I'm wrong, the "dreamlike" state could be caused by feeling guilty about smoking spice. If you just try to live on and not worry about it. You'll start to feel better. Spice is obviously bad for you. But, I smoked it and I'm 15. I've also had depression the past two weeks. This isn't helping my brain any lol.
And the brain is just trying to deal with this "new" feeling, that's why most people feel as if their soul is gone or the spice took their soul's. Just give it some time and the brain will relax itself again. Eating right and sleeping good will REALLY help. For any other info, look up "depersonalation/derealization"

We can’t comment specifically on what’s causing your lingering side effects. But, as you say, keeping drugs out of your brain, getting sleep, eating right, and doing other healthy things will allow you get back to your old self.

I've been smoking this stuff called smoking dragon for over a year now...I'm 21 years old and I used to smoke crack when I was 18 till I was 19..I quit that because I was having abnormal thoughts and behaviors. This spice is something else..no matter how hard I try I can't seem to quit..sometimes I feel like I'm dying after taking 1 hit but if I take another one it goes away...idk what do..I'm scared I'm gonna have major health problems but for some reason that thought isn't enough..and it scares me even more...I thought about rehab but I'm afraid im gonna jus do it again because it's everywhere here in Dayton Ohio..why would man create something like this..to make cannabinoids deadly an addictive..maybe it's my clinical depression getting in the way of quitting I'm bot sure at all..please help, I'm lost

When you have a drug problem, it's never easy to know what to do. I know it might sound trite, but recognizing you have a problem and wanting to change are the most important first steps – and it sounds like you are almost there. To help you along, try talking to a trusted adult. You may also find help through the anonymous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). This hotline can help with a lot of issues, not just suicide. Callers are connected with a professional nearby who will talk with them about what they're feeling. It sounds like you also need treatment for the Spice problem. Entering “Dayton, Ohio,” on this treatment facility locator https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ (sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) turned up 10 treatment centers in or near Dayton. Numbers 3 and 4 on this list mention adolescents, plus offer a mix of substance abuse and mental health services. Take action for your health and to get your life back. Good luck to you.

k2 is not fun iv seen pepole have panic attackes and k2 attackes trust me it is not fun

I have had 2 experiences with spice and what i felt was not good. In the past pot was used and I quit. did not want to feel stupid all my life. but with spice the effects were so out of control i actually lots track of where i was at. my advice to young people......Dont use it! Dont be fooled into thinking this is safe. Someone is manufacturing this knowing the long term effects and by the other comments I have read it seems to have effects of LSD or Meth. Cant believe this has infected our society. There is a better way to life! Just live life on Lifes' terms. Its not so bad!

PLEASEEEEE !!!.Dont try this it will messed you up really bad. itll get you to the point where you.just want to givr up. This is bad DONT TRY IT. The symptoms are so powerful. Ive.made.the.biggest mistake an im only 14

wish that i woulda never done it it will be the biggest mistake you ever maed i know its hard to say no but its worth it
My friend started banging his head on the sidewalk and screaming where am i and for help
Have a good friend who I've known since I was 7 years old. I'm 19 now. She has been smoking weed since she was in middle school and started smoking spice heavily in high school when her boyfriend was arrested and could not smoke weed. Long story short, she has since been diagnosed bi-polar/manic-depressive (if you don't know about manic depression go do your research). She is deathly skinny, and I won't mention the other harmful affects it has done to her. She's not even the same person. This girl used to be model gorgeous, and now I can literally see her body rotting away. I cannot stress the potential dangers of this drug. It is an even stronger gateway drug than marijuana is. Since smoking spice, my friend has tried several other drugs which I won't mention, and it has seriously ruined her brain. I have good reason to believe she is also addicted to it, after she freaked out when she couldn't find it. Please think before you put something you don't know about in your body and do your research first. Everything you do has consequences, and it's your choice to determine whether the consequences are worth it. We live in a generation which can't seem to face the fact that we aren't invincible. We ignore cold hard facts because we place our wants and desires before our needs. At some point we need to face the facts and grow up.
I started smoking spice because I had drug tests at work and smoked weed and didn't want to get caught. I though spice was the best thing in the world. It got me to quit smoking pot after like 10 years of smoking. But man do I wish I wouldn't have turned to that crap. I was worthless when I smoked it. Wife divorced me. Got fired from my job cause I showed up high and they knew (even though I passed the drug test at the time). Lost my kids cuz the ex wouldn't bring them around me. It ridiculous. I was successfull before I smoked incense but now I am just trying to get back to normal. I found that reading about everyone's experiences helped me realize that I needed to quit. I guess cause I saw how big of a loser I was being. I found this website called http://spiceaddictionsupport.org and read people's stories and the same things were happening to me :( I thought there was some other reason why I was sweating from doing nothing and forgetting everything. It was crazy. I quit that day and haven't touched it since. It has been 5 months and I still get cravings and I still am not 100% back to normal cuz I think it fried my brain a bit. It's tough to write stuff like this cause I forgot a lot of the words to use and how to spell them. Kinda sucks but hopefully I will get better. Does anyone else have this problem with writing? If you are reading this and are trying to figure out if you should quit then you should and if you wondering if you are addicted then you are. Just quit today cause you are killing yourself and your brain.
drugs are dum a lot of people use them but im not intrested. though theres a lot of pressure to use i dont think its worth it.
I am a nurse in a psych unit. We keep getting these kids, often they must go to an institution because they just can't recover from the brain damage. What is sad is that many thought they were smoking pot and actually got "ripped off" getting this garbage. Not that pot is good, but but really!!! Go bungee jump if you are that desperate for a thrill, your chances of surviving are much better. Another group of these kids had it slipped in their drinks by clowns thinking it would be funny at a party or card game. They are now dead, or in a psych unit for life, with others who are throwing their own stool all day. I am furious over this. Parents devastated, because as I said, their kid thought he was with friends, or was just trying to fit in, and was basically murdered by the junk. Someone should find the owners of these companies , post their photo on billboards with photos of their family members who are getting rich selling chemicals from under their kitchen sink to dumb vulnerable kids.
Is there any statistical data about the ill effects of "spice"? There seem to be lots of anecdotal claims (see the "Very Sad Nurse" above) but in looking around for any real data it seems the number of actual deaths is in the low single digits. I haven't seen any real reports of anyone being condemned to a "psych unit for life". This is not to say that people should smoke it, but by making something out to be so much worse than it really is, you undercut your message when people actually see others using it without the supposedly rampant ill effects. It also seems a bit short sighted to not include alcohol in the list of drug facts. As it is one of the top 2 most abused drugs (both of the top 2 being legal), I would think it would get some mention. Again, undercutting the message when such obvious drugs are ignored.

@Anon, unfortunately we're still learning how Spice can affect your health.  There aren't any studies available yet, but we know from Poison Control Centers that Spice can cause rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.  Spice can also raise blood pressure and reduce blood supply to the heart.  

Regarding alcohol, we agree that it can be a dangerous drug.  Our sister agency, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, has a lot of great information.  

I used a very strong brand of spice (hydro tonic spice, the one with the skulls on the bag) between july and September of last year. I started having problems with my sinuses and throat in November and as one problem clears another appears, mostly with respiratory system. I had high blood pressure for sometime and now, I feel like my lungs are completely messed up. Keeping mind tht I stopped smoking EVERYTHING (even cigarettes) last November when all these problems started. I feel like I have something logged in my throat and sarted feeling really tired after doing the least amount of effort, and finally for a few days now, I get some blood coming out my mouth when I cough. This is horrible stuff. Has this stuff been linked to lung cancer or any kind of cancer! I'm very worried this stuff gave me cancer!
No wonder I can't remember nothing but it could also be all that weed and being dropped as a baby a few times who knows?
Drugs aren't worth it. Save your life. Find a pastor, Jesus can cure anything and always bring you happiness.
So helpful:)
First I just want to ask the people from this page to like leave like to try to leave most of my story up here I don't mind if it has personal information I'm willing to share that and I want to share that with people so they know about how horrible my experience was trying out K2. Here it goes so I am 15 years old and all i have to say to those who have or want to smoke K2/spice is dont do it please DO NOT DO IT !!! I know a lot of people are trying to read other peoples comments to see what it was like for others and I also wanted to share what I went through so that maybe it could shed some light on how bad this stuff really is. I realize this is my last time but then again my second time was yesterday so I don't know yet but I know I don't want to do it but I feel like I'm addicted like I got to keep taking it and that's how I feel alive somehow. Like yesterday my little cousin tried feel the high or whatever and I told her no its no good at all but she said that is not fair that she wants to try that it not fair that two or three days before i cant remember my little brother boyfriend and he twin brother got to experience it and that no one is changing her mind. I left not wanting to be apart of this an cane back to seeing her not in the right state of mind she was sad and she kept repeating "you told me not to do I'm so sorry i feel like I've disappointed you". The messed up part was that none of us believed her because she could walk in a straight line she could see how many fingers we were holding up and count them correctly and that's the thing its like your body's here but your mind is just gone into repetition everything would just repeat over and over and over and just seeing her like that made me very sad but for some reason I tried it again but i cant be addicted cant i ? Its always bad going be bad hallucinations and panic attacks no matter what . When I finished everyone looked at me and was laughing no one really understood that I was in hell that I was trying to survive I felt like I was falling into like dark hole which i said was hell that i wasnt going to heaven where if I fell asleep I was going to die of a stroke or a heart attack. And this i because everyone else handled it they would pass out for thirty minutes or get the munchies or a really bad headache but i felt like i was the weakest one fighting for my life. The only one really there for me was my boyfriend but not no more because that's what this drug does it makes you lose the people important to you not this only EVERY DRUG . I feel like I was trapped in my inside my head like there was this computer trying to keep me in it and it hurt so much I had seizures,headaches, and I threw up it was horrible and before i have to end up going to my little brothers, little cousins or just dying myself i need help please. This is serious this is just another teen trying to seek confidential help because none of the grown ups know. Also if there are people out there who took did it too i woukd love to hear about it in the comments section. Ps i am still afraid to go to sleep and i cant control when i out no where twich and i have panic attacks out of no where every time i tell myself i should have never done it i just feel myself going back into that trapped place where everything is stuck.

Sorry you are going through this. If you want to talk to somebody, SAMHSA runs a crisis line that answers calls 24-7 to help people work through their problems. They're a really good resource, and you can reach them at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org If you want to get treatment for addiction, you can visit findtreatment.samhsa.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find a program near you.



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