Spice is Not a Natural “Herbal High”

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The term “Spice” is drug slang for a class of herbal concoctions that have gained a reputation as a safe and way to get high. Sold as incense or potpourri in convenience stores, head shops and over the Internet, Spice consists of a mixture of dried plant leaves and stems that have been soaked in synthetic chemicals. When smoked, Spice produces psychoactive (mind-altering) effects that have been compared by some to marijuana.

Many Spice products carry labels saying “not for human consumption.” Despite these labels, Spice is marketed as a natural “herbal high.” It has been sold since 2004 under a variety of names, including K2, Genie, Incense and Bliss.

Far More Dangerous than Marijuana

Many Spice users mistakenly believe that the high produced by the dried plant mixture comes from the plant themselves. In reality, the active ingredient in Spice is a designer cannabinoid compound (also known as synthetic marijuana). Because the chemical compounds that are used to lace the dried plant material have not been scientifically tested for safety, Spice is viewed by drug experts has being far more dangerous than marijuana. There is no guarantee that the amount of chemical added to any batch of Spice is safe or what the effects will be when the mixture is smoked.

Although Spice has no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse, it has been difficult for the U.S. government to outlaw it. The DEA has designated the five ingredients commonly found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, but the underground chemists who make Spice evade legal restrictions by changing the chemicals they use.

Second Most Abused Drug by Teens

The 2012 Monitoring the Future study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that Spice products are the second most-used illicit drugs by high school seniors (right behind marijuana). Experts believe that easy access to Spice products and the misperception that they are natural and safe have contributed to their popularity. Some young people may also be attracted to Spice because the drug is usually not detected in standard drug tests.

Effects of Spice

For most people, marijuana consumption produces feelings of relaxation and euphoria. The effects of Spice can be far more intense, including:

• Acute anxiety and paranoia
• Alienation and dissociation
• Hallucinations
• Panic attacks
• Nausea and vomiting
• Heart palpitations
• Elevated blood pressure
• Tremors or seizures
• Heart attack
• Psychotic episodes

It should be noted that the effects of Spice can vary widely because the chemical components of many Spice products is unknown.

When used over a long period of time, Spice users build a tolerance for the drug and need greater amounts to get high. There is some evidence that Spice is an addictive drug and that users may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. The fact that many young people report unpleasant side effects after using Spice yet continue to use it indicates that chemical dependency is a very real possibility for Spice users.