In late 2018, there was a surge in dangerous and fatal overdoses of synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice. Spice is also marketed as K2, Scooby Snax, and Kronic. The drug is made out of shredded plant material that is then sprayed with a synthetic cannabinoid. Mostly, users smoke or vaporize Spice to get a high similar to marijuana. But Spice comes with a risk of several severe side effects, and it’s possible for users to overdose on the drug fatally. In New Haven, Connecticut, over 70 people overdosed on Spice within two days.
What is Spice?
Even though many states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, the DEA still considers marijuana a schedule one substance. The active ingredient in cannabis that gets someone high and can be addictive is called THC. THC is a cannabinoid compound. Black market chemists have attempted to create a synthetic form of THC, which causes alterations in perception and other physical side effects. These artificial, lab-made cannabinoid chemicals are the active compounds in Spice or K2.
What is the history of Spice?
Initially, the synthetic cannabinoids in Spice were made for scientific research. But drug manufacturers have managed to reproduce these chemicals and sell them to users. What makes Spice so dangerous is that the drug has a similar, opaque legal status to bath salts. The chemical recipe used to make Spice and also bath salts is continually changing. Dealers can sell these drugs in convenience stores and head shops by marketing them as “incense.” Once officials catch on and make the product illegal, enterprising black market chemists change the drug’s chemical makeup once more and manage to evade the reach of the law.
In 2004, Spice was introduced and sold in London, England. Soon after, Spice entered the U.S. market and became widespread in 2008. The drug was able to evade law enforcement by sporting labels that said, “not for human consumption.” But sellers and users both knew that the product was only intended for illicit use and for getting high. In general, Spice is marketed as a “legal” substitute for marijuana. In addition, Spice is sold as a harmless substance that is non-addictive. But this is not true. Although Spice and K2 are laced with synthetic cannabinoids designed to mimic the effects of THC, the side effects of synthetic cannabinoids are more pronounced than those found in natural THC.
How is Spice dangerous?
The synthetic compounds in Spice possess more addictive qualities than natural marijuana. Also, natural marijuana can cause someone to experience a brief, and usually mild, episode of psychosis. Once the pot high wears off in a few hours, the psychosis dissipates with little to no lasting side effects. But psychosis in Spice consumption is much more severe and long-lasting. Spice users can experience psychosis for days after using Spice or K2. Psychosis is not a mental health disorder but a symptom. People who have psychosis will believe things that aren’t true, and their beliefs will cause them to experience a break with reality. Getting high on Spice can increase a person’s risk of suicide or violence toward others. Paranoia, panic attacks, hallucinations, and agitation are common when someone experiences a high from Spice. Other common side effects of Spice can have a severe impact on a person’s physical health: