Spice: What is it and why is it dangerous?

spice synthetic marijuanaSpice has been a hot topic in the news this year and those of us who work with addicts have been paying close attention to what is happening in the local and federal laws. Spice is sold as an incense, which makes it legal for anyone – including teens – to buy it. In the user community, however, it’s a well-known fact that Spice can be smoked like a synthetic marijuana and does not come up on a regular urinalysis test. A test did come out a few months ago that does test for the synthetic marijuana but it is still not used nor available in all areas.

Realizing the danger of the drug, many cities and states, including Utah, made moves to ban the selling of Spice. The US Drug Enforcement Administration got involved in December and made a nationwide ban of 5 of the chemicals used to make the synthetic THC. But now it appears that federal ban, meant to take effect in December, is tied up in a lawsuit and it could be a year before  the legal issues are resolved. On top of that, Spice manufacturers have already sidestepped the issue by making the product with chemicals not on the federal ban list. (Here’s an update to Utah Spice ban bills being discussed in the Legislature right now.)

This means the drug is still being sold in Utah and across the nation, typically in smoke shops. Utah legislature is looking at taking further actions this legislative session but the drug can still be purchased online.

If it is outlawed, there is some stipulation that the drug will just go underground, like cocaine or marijuana. Bottom line, Spice isn’t going away any time soon. So parents, teens and youth professionals need to know the dangers involved with using the synthetic marijuana.

As part of his substance abuse treatment at Youth Services, Mohamed (a fictions name) researched more about Spice, also known as JWH-018, and his firsthand experience as a teen user. 

Firsthand Account on Teens Using SPICE:


One of the newest ways to get a quick buzz or high nowadays is to smoke “spice” otherwise known as the lab made weed, or K2. It is very commonly used by people on probation or involved in anything that requires a urinalysis because it is so rarely tested for. The scary thing about spice is that not everyone really knows what is in it. I myself have had many experiences with Spice; the high that it causes is very intense. It causes extreme headaches, fatigue, slurred speech, and you very easily forget things while on Spice. As I have done some research on Spice I was shocked at the things I have discovered on the risk we are taking every time we inhale the chemicals in it.

Spice is currently being sold at smoke shops and convenience stores as incense or a legal smoking material. The long-term effects of spice are unknown; however there have been many reports of hospitalizations, seizures, and suicides resulting from spice use. Spice contains synthetic cannabinoids, which act on the body in a very similar way to cannabinoids found in marijuana, therefore causing a similar high to marijuana.

Almost every professional report on spice has been negative. You really don’t know what the substance is going to do to you. It can cause negative side effects that aren’t even noted in marijuana users. One study states that a three-gram package of spice is said to have the same health effects on the lungs as a pack of cigarettes. After reading all this I ask myself “Why the hell am I doing this?” 

Spice holds its own little spot in the relapse cycle. When a person is coming off drugs or has even been sober for a period of time let’s say they decide it would be ok to smoke a little spice. So they smoke and remember how much they miss getting high, so they start to make a little habit of smoking Spice. Eventually that spice high gets old, so they decide to go back to their original drug of choice. It starts with that simple decision to smoke a little Spice and it eventually leads you back to your worst enemy. 

Writing this essay and researching all the facts on Spice has really opened my eyes to how dangerous this synthetic pot really is. Because we honestly have no clue what is in it. And I would definitely like to stop my use before I end up laid out on a stretcher.

“Mohamed” stopped into my office recently to report that Spice is being sold at 50 cents a gram, which makes it an incredibly cheap high. If you are a parent, a youth professional, or a teen using drugs or have friends who are using drugs, get informed and get involved. Talk with the youth, know the warning signs of use and be sure to get treatment if needed.


About Kari Allen

I have been employed in various positions at Youth Services since August 03; including the group home, Christmas Box House shift supervisor, Adolescent Services shift supervisor, Safe Place Coordinator, and OutReach & Prevention Supervisor. My goal is to assist youth and families in crisis find the resources needed for their families. These resources include, parenting classes for parents of pre teens and teens, anger management classes for teens and a girl only youth support group for teen girls. I can be reached at 801-269-7572 or klallen@slco.org. I love spending time with family and friends, catching up on my sleep and pedicures with girlfriends.
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18 Responses to Spice: What is it and why is it dangerous?

  1. FocusOnGreat says:

    What really concerns me is the fact that a company has decided it’s okay to make this stuff! What has our society come to that it’s more important to make money off a harmful product that to take care of our youth. I find this very sad. More parents need to be aware of what’s going on out there and educate and mentor their youth to understand the consequences of quick, cheap high.

    • Tammy Champo says:

      Cindy – Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, since it is being marketed as an incense many are not aware of the dangers and youth are definitely experimenting before realizing the consequences. Youth definately need mentors – peers, adults and especially parent involvement.

      • This is what bothers me…. It’s being marketed as an incense…. What is wrong with businesses out there???? I find this highly offensive and wonder what is wrong with government regulations as well as personal business morals…. I find it hard to believe that EVERYONE is just out there for an extra buck….

    • Tammy Champo says:

      Very true. And the hard part about regulating it is that each company is using so many different ingredients to produce it. So regulation will be a hard battle.

    • Issy says:

      Absolutely true. I wish that America hadn’t turned to this to make money. We could make LOTS of money if we could just drill on our own land, and not have to use drugs.

  2. micks says:

    the thing to do in america is to separate ourselves from our roots: stop being rational, immoral ideas, do not use reason, become an addict to they physical world etc… up to the point where the worlds natural occurring THC can be synthesized in a lab, so now even true natural pleasures of getting high are substituted. AMERICA!! YEA!!

  3. tomasie poo says:

    My wife was talked into smoking this by a friend’s brother. She was “sold” on the fact it was legal.
    Next thing she knows, she’s passed out, and the guy was raping her! She woke up naked and confused. Yes, she was drinking too. Yes, she made the mistake of trusting her brother. Maybe he laced the stuff with something? Maybe he put something in her drink? The last thing she remembers was smoking K2.

    • Tammy Champo says:

      I am sorry to hear the trauma that you’re wife experienced. Thank you for sharing your story; hopefully it will help others avoid potentially dangerous and traumatic experiences related to alcohol and drug use. This also serves as a solemn reminder not to take any substance from anyone you don’t know very well. Hard lessons to learn.

    • Graham says:

      i recently decided not to smoke spice anymore because of what I have read and what I have been going through from not smoking it. One of the things I could not help when smoking spice…is I would just find myself, waking up. I would not recall passing out as I just would.

  4. Daniel Peters says:

    I am 15 years old and have been addicted to spice for 6 months usually smoking a gram or 2 a day, recently after being ratted on by a freind of mine not 2 days ago and nearing christmas, and having been caught once again by the ever so “kind” leisan officer im being prosecuted, and have to go to an expullsion hearing, yes it is a dangerous drug and what not, but for the love of ### stop with these ridiculous charges on your youth especially if you hold authority for the love of ### stop causing people such pain in their lives because of their own habits which effect nobody else, do you really think it is good to force a family to divorce, lose their home, lose most of their possessions due to angry parents, lose my christmas, lose my sanity, and than ridicule me in a expullsion hearing, thats what you people call justice? im so ##### sick of you pestimistic ### thinking your doing good when your abusing your authority worse than hitler. Why do you do this to children? why? i want an answer before i go postal, my life is over, you #### dont know what we might have going on in our personal lives, stop disciplining children for substance abuse, help them out instead anything else than making us live through this hellish nightmare that you think is for the greater good. you dont help anyone, why do you think most people use this? for probation, which who caused? you. get a #### life.

    • Tammy Champo says:

      I am sorry to hear about your personal life issues. Hopefully you will find that getting charged is a blessing in disguise. Through your substance abuse treatment your therapist will also be able to address and help you cope with the trauma in your life. I hope you are able to find a good counselor that you can connect with. Good luck.

    • Issy says:

      Whatever may be going on in your life, probably won’t be helped at all by doing drugs that could possibly kill you. It won’t help anybody.

  5. Christie says:

    I have a 17 year old son who has been smoking this “legal pot”. Let me tell you it is a nightmare. He was a good student two years ago until he began smoking pot and drinking. He also was a good kid in general. His grades fell,he stopped following my rules including coming home on time. One time he dissappeared for four days. It was horrible. So we moved to a different town. But here he discovered this “legal pot” which all the kids seem to be doing. My son has even tried to convince me that it is legal and the cops cannot arrest anyone for smoking it. The kids here sincerally believe it is legel and cannot hurt you. He has changed in a very negative way. When he gets high off of it,his eyes turn yellow/red,his balance is off,he gets papanoid,slurs his speach,and he has even pushed me around and gotten into my face to the point that I actually fear he will hurt me. This behavior is directly linked to his smoking of this dangerous stuff. When I ask he and his friends would you buy bleach,which is also legal, and sniff it to get high…they all said no. I asked why not and most of them responded by saying thing like,” thats just stupid,bleach is for cleaning” and “I would never put that shit in my body,its a chemical”. So then I would say to them,”Well what do you think your smoking?”

    • Tammy Champo says:

      Christie, I am sorry to hear about the struggles you have had with your teen son and spice. It is definately a dangerous chemical and illegal to smoke. I hope you will be able to show him that Spice is not legal to smoke and they have started making tests that can detect it. You might consider taking him to a presentation about the dangers of the drugs or talking to law enforcement about what would happen if he got caught with Spice. Here in Utah he would definately be charged and go for substance abuse treatment, which is what we would recommend to get him the help he needs. Hope that helps!

  6. Issy says:

    Sometimes, teens will do drugs to forget their problems, especially if there are family problems. If your son is doing drugs, try spending more time with him, as a happy family. But make sure it’s doing what he wants to do, so that he enjoys it. He’ll probably resist, but don’t push it, he’ll come around eventually.

  7. gina says:

    dnt use spice i am slow frm using it i forget more often im cok eyed n im in a high I will neva come out of i hear n c things

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