Information on synthetic drugs

Parents and teens: We have been receiving many requests for information on “K2” and “Spice,” which are street names for synthetic marijuana. My research took me to The Partnership at Drugfree.Org where I learned that K2/Spice is a mixture of herbs and plant materials that have been sprayed with artificial chemicals to mimic the effects of marijuana. K2/Spice is sold online and in convenience stores under trade names such as Blaze, Bliss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, or Genie, or by the names of the chemicals used in production, such as JWH-018. It is also marketed as incense.

The physical signs of K2/Spice are extremely troubling and include increased agitation, loss of control, seizures, spastic body movements, vomiting, elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate.

K2/Spice is usually smoked and the user can feel the effects in 3 to 5 minutes, and the effects can last from 1 to 8 hours. Other signs of use include paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. Another factor is dysphoria, which is the opposite of euphoria. A K2/Spice user posted a blog comment that read in part, “I felt like I was in hell and I couldn’t get out.”

As troubling as the short-term effects of this drug are, what is even more concerning is the fact that no one knows what their long-term effects will be. They simply haven’t been around long enough for medical professionals to know how users (or their unborn children) will be affected in 10 years, 20 years or even further in the future.

While parents might not be aware of K2/Spice, their teens definitely know what it is. According to the “Monitoring the Future” study, a survey conducted by the University of Michigan found more than 1 in 10 American high school seniors used synthetic marijuana in the prior year. It also appears the use of K2 is rising. It doubled during 2010 and 2011 and is on track to rise again this year.

It is extremely important for parents and teens to understand that synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous and are not safe as a second choice or as an alternative to more well-known drugs. The Partnership at Drugfree.Org offers a toll-free helpline for parents and teens who would like to ask questions about synthetic drugs at 1-855-DRUGFREE. Trained social workers will supply answers to the many possible inquiries.

Parents: A good message to teens is to avoid putting anything in their bodies that would change their feelings or emotions — whether it is something they would smoke, drink, take in pill form or shoot with a needle. The human brain is an incredible machine, and you need to be even more careful with a teenage brain because it is a work in progress.

Teens: It is impossible to know what these drugs contain, who made them or what you are going to get. Getting high — no matter how — carries risks of making unsafe or unhealthy decisions. Be wise; don’t become a victim of a manufacturer’s greed!


Write to Dr. Wallace at

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