What Is Spice? Is it Safe?

While “Spice” or synthetic Marijuana, is often sold and marketed as a safe and legal alternative to illegal drugs. The fact is that ingesting Spice can have serious health consequences and even be deadly. Read on to get the facts about Spice and the dangers of taking this drug.

Because Spice is manufactured and marketed under a variety of names, such as K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, it’s unclear what the substance actually contains. There is no regulation and it’s not FDA approved. Most products sold as “Spice” or one of the other names listed above include a mixture of shredded plant material and chemical additives. Teens are attracted to the drug because of its perception as a “natural” high, the ease of purchasing it over the counter at gas stations and smoke shops and the fact that it typically does not show up on drug tests. Spice is typically smoked, though it can also be made into an herbal tea.

The physical effects of Spice are similar to those of Marijuana, including elevated mood, relaxation and altered perception. However, in many cases, these effects are even stronger than they are with pot; the effects can be combined with hallucinations as well as extreme paranoia and anxiety. The chemicals used to make Spice connect with some nerve cell receptors is THC (the active ingredient in Marijuana); however, researchers theorize that this connection is much stronger than with Marijuana and can cause unpredictable effects. In fact, experts theorize that the effects of Spice on the brain are typically 100 times stronger than the effects of similar amounts of Marijuana.

While experts still aren’t sure of the exact effect that Spice has on the body, this uncertainty is one of the reasons why the substance is so dangerous. Users of the drug have been hospitalized with high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and other cardiac effects, as well as confusion, hallucination and vomiting. The drug, which was responsible for 28,531 emergency room visits in 2011 alone. Using Spice has also been linked to heart attacks and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found a link between use of Spice and kidney disorders as well.

In addition to these dangers, at least one death has been linked to use of Spice, with several others under investigation. In one case, after using the drug daily for two weeks, a 17-year-old suffered multiple seizures which led to blindness and paralysis. With ongoing use, Spice abusers may also suffer from the same physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction to other drugs.

Experts estimate that around 10% of high school students have tried Spice. Although the Drug Enforcement Administration has classified the chemicals used to make this drug as schedule I, meaning that they are illegal to sell, manufacturers have found ways to get around this designation. If you think that your child may have experimented with this drug, talk with his or her doctor. The doctor can help explain the risks of substance abuse and refer your child to treatment if necessary.

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