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Spice 101: What is it? Where Does it Come From? What are the Side Effects?

With so much being said in the media about Spice, Patch takes a look at some cold hard facts about the synthetic drug. Also, listen to a young adult's first-hand account with the deadly substance.

It’s been cited as the cause of ’s death and is alleged to have influenced 19-year-old Farmington Hills resident ’s fatal attack on his family. It’s called Spice, or K2, but what exactly is this increasingly infamous substance?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines “Spice,” as “a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as ‘safe,’ legal alternatives to that drug.”

However, NIDA, law enforcement officials and doctors in the Metro Detroit area say the substance is anything but “safe.” 

Although Spice is commonly defined as “synthetic marijuana,” Dr. Sanford Vieder, director of  Emergency Trauma Center, said, “it really isn’t. Marijuana has a sedating effect … This stuff actually has the opposite effect.”

Made up of dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives, the drug has been known to have psychoactive, or mind-altering effects. There is a “hallucinogenic component,” Vieder said, adding that “violent reactions to even the slightest stimulus” can be caused by the substance.

NIDA calls the labels on Spice products “false advertising,” as they often claim to contain “natural” psycho-active material from plants but don’t immediately alert consumers to their active ingredients, which are primarily chemical additives.

What's in it?

Because the product is marketed as "not for human consumption," there is no requirement on the part of manufacturers to list packaging contents or ingredient amounts, and no two packages are the same.

Even beyond the dangers of its chemical additives, the herbal mixture itself may produce allergic reactions to sensitive users, according to Livestrong.com.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has designated five of the chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it is illegal to sell, buy or possess them. However, because these chemicals can be easily substituted for others that produce similar highs, manufacturers of Spice products are able to continue selling the product legally.

Commonly sold as incense or potpourri, users will smoke the substance in joints or pipes, or even make it into a tea to achieve a high.

What are its side effects?

According to a recent article in The Journal of School Safety, one in nine high school seniors has used synthetic marijuana in the past year.

The article states that the use of Spice is now the second most frequently used drug among high school seniors, second only to marijuana.

The Drug Enforcement Administration states that smoking spice gives a person psychological effects similar to those of marijuana, including paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness. It also can cause increase heart rates and blood pressure. Because the manufacturing of Spice is not regulated, the DEA states the combination or herbs and chemicals used can be potentially dangerous, and smoking the drug can cause serious reactions including nausea and, in at least one reported case, brain swelling.

How does it achieve a high?

The compound K2 affects the brain in the same way as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Both compounds bind to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which primarily affect the central nervous system, but K2's affect is about 10 times greater than THC, according to LiveScience.com.

In simple terms, this means smoking a small amount of K2 can prove just as potent as a larger amount of marijuana.

Where is it sold?

Typically, gas stations, head shops and the Internet. In response to public outrage over sale of the substance, and gas stations have recently asked their franchises to stop selling Spice and K2.

Manufacturers of Spice are not regulated and are often unknown since these products are often purchased over the Internet, according to the DEA. Several websites that sell the product are known to be based in China.

What does it look like?

Spice is typically sold in small, metalic plastic bags. The substance itself resembles dried leaves and is marketed as incense that can be smoked. It has also said to resemble potpourri.

What are other names for it?

Bilss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, Spice, Zohai, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, K2, Fake Pot

For full coverage of the fight against Spice in Shelby Township and across Michigan, visit our topic page .

Sammy V. June 07, 2012 at 11:52 AM
According to a local Judge, 300 people age twenty-five-and-under DIED in Macomb county last year from opiates (prescription painkillers and heroin). That's 300 dead young people in 1 year in one county. And instead of reading about the worst drug epidemic to ever hit this country, we have 7 straight days of anti-fake-marijuana. I get the feeling most people following this story have no clue as to what Bath Salts are and how they are different than Spice. It is sadly ironic that the fake Schedule 2 Drug (Bath Salts) is significantly more dangerous than the fake Schedule 1 Drug (Spice). Sort've exactly how Schedule 2 crack-cocaine/crystal meth is worse than Schedule 1 cannabis. "Don't worry, Timmy. They would have warned us about Bath Salts at the Spice seminar if they were REALLY that bad. Here, just do a small rail."
Matt Guarnieri June 07, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Maybe they should include the "bath salts" in the Shelby Township ordinance.
Joe Dumars July 28, 2012 at 07:11 AM
Yep. They forgot about legal methamphetamine somehow... maybe they still don't know the difference between weed and cocaine... but bath salts? Haha... legal pcp, meth, and coke combined. Complete opposite from spice - 1,000 times worse - for GOD'S SAKE.
mbonita December 15, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I hope and pray they really get the people who sell spice out of here and in prison, where they belong. My cousin's grandson died of K2 last summer. None of us will ever forget what happened.
mbonita December 16, 2012 at 12:10 AM
On May 26th Oliver Smith died of a K2 overdose.

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