Marijuana is one of the most widely abused drugs in the world, yet it is still mostly illegal in the USA and in other countries. However, its legal status does little to deter teenagers from trying it at least once. The high demand for marijuana has led many unscrupulous companies to try to create a substance that affects the user the same way that marijuana does. However, this product (a.k.a. spice, K2, synthetic marijuana) is very dangerous.

Spice is actually just potpourri sprayed with a chemical which mimics the affects of the natural THC that’s found in unadulterated marijuana. It’s readily available in most smoke shops and it’s labeled as “incense” with a warning that reads “not for human consumption”. However, the companies only label synthetic marijuana this way to get around government regulations. Synthetic marijuana is often marketed as a safer or healthier alternative to the real thing, when that is absolutely false.

Spice use in the USA has grown over the years because many people believe it’s a safe alternative. It’s sold in gas stations and smoke shops, so it must be safe right?  Wrong. Spice/synthetic marijuana use has become prevalent amongst young adults and it’s only second to marijuana, as seen in the chart below (from a University of Michigan 2011 study).

The popularity of the drug with young adults and teenagers is also partly due to its availability. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that some teenagers and young adults mix the spice with marijuana to create an “herbal” tea.

The effects of spice are not fully documented, although it’s known that it affects the same cell receptors as THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The different substances found in synthetic marijuana are often more powerful and unpredictable than natural THC. The varieties of synthetic marijuana may cause dramatically different side effects.  Some of the reported side effects of synthetic marijuana include increased heart rate, vomiting, stroke, heart attack, severe agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. The long term effects are higher blood pressure, which causes a reduced blood supply to the heart. In rare cases, smoking spice can cause severe anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, and possibly even sudden death.

Although the effects of synthetic marijuana are relatively unknown, its widespread availability makes it an interesting alternative to the real thing for many teenagers and young adults. It’s relatively cheap and people think spice is safe because it’s sold at the store and it doesn’t show up in traditional drug tests.

Unfortunately too many teens have already lost their lives to this despicable drug. Spice users say they became addicted to the drug and they actually suffered through withdrawal symptoms when they stopped smoking it. If you or someone you love is addicted to synthetic marijuana, please get them help before it’s too late.