This Drug is not the “Spice” of Life
By Olive Hinnant
Substance Abuse Treatment:

“Variety is the very spice of life,” was originally said by English poet William Cowper in the 1700’s. In the early 20th century another British author said, “Variety is not the spice of life. It is the very stuff of it.” Then for some comic relief to this phrase, comedian and host of the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson, “If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of left over Spam.” The drug Spice is not life at all. If you haven’t heard of Spice before, here’s a crash course:

  • It is a new synthetic drug in the family of cannabinoids on the market since 2006.
  • The generic name is K 2.
  • This drug acts similar to THC except that it is anywhere between 3x – 800x the potency of THC.
  • It can be purchased on the internet or at convenience stores, head shops, or truck stops.
  • Its cost is relatively cheap, about $20-60 for 1-3 grams.
  • It is hard to test this synthetic. This is appealing to anyone needing a clean UA—people in prison, rehab, military and on probation.
  • The variability of substances present in each batch makes it virtually impossible to test for use.
  • Other names: Yucatan Fire, Sence, Chill X, Dragon, Spice Gold, Spice Silver or Spice Diamond.
  • Take 1/10 gram and put it into a bong, take 3-6 hits and the synthetic drug effect starts immediately and produces up to an 8 hour high. Some feel the effect for 24 hours.
  • Users report the high feels like marijuana but with hallucinations possible.

From the outline above, no wonder its growing popularity, especially the part about undetected UA’s when using Spice. It’s cheap and relatively easy to get. The effects are quicker and greater than other similar substances.

The evolution of Spice’s presence on the market is interesting. In 1995, Dr. John Hoffman, professor of Organic Chemistry at Clemson University (SC) conducted research on effects of cannabinoids on the brain. In order to do this, he developed a synthetic cannabinoid (JWH-018) for use in the study. A paper was published including the formula for the chemicals used to create the synthetic and the rest is history, as they say. Enterprising individuals used the formula to replicate the compound JWH-018. Then it was sprayed on dried leaves, flower, herbs and tobacco.

In keeping with the saying, “Variety is the Spice of Life”; the drug Spice has a lot of variety that actually are spices and herbs. It may contain none, some, most, or all of the listed ingredients: Baybean, Blue Lotus, Lion's Tail, Lousewort, Mugwort, Indian Warrior, Dwarf Skullcap, Maconha Brava, Sassafrass, Pink Lotus, Marshmallow, Red Clover, Nutmeg, Rose, Siberian Motherwort, Damiana, Canavalia Maritime, Leonotis Leonurus, Leonurus Sibiricus, Passion Flower, Vanilla Planifolia, Zorinia Latifolia, Magnolia Officinalis, Sage, Rosa Gallica, or Trifolium. The drug Spice will also contain a synthetic or combination of synthetics sprayed onto the mixture but with little to no chemical smell; it would be more like a potpourri smell.

The drug Spice binds to the same receptor sites as cannabis and creates a similar effect in the user. However, the potential for longer than normal psychoactive effects is due to longer half-lives of chemicals and full binding at receptor sites versus partial binding of THC. Spice also causes seizures, anxiety, agitation, and dangerously increased blood pressure and heart rates, but there is little known regarding detailed pharmacology and toxicology.

There are numerous reports of addiction to Spice. Withdrawal symptoms are common to other drug withdrawal and include: night sweats, internal unrest, tremors, palpitations, insomnia, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Not enough is known in places where treatment takes place because of its newness.

The DEA and states are scrambling to make it a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance for legal reason. The US military has banned possession and use and it is also banned in Chile, France, Germany, S. Korea, Sweden and Switzerland. Unfortunately, those of us in the substance abuse, rehabilitation and legal systems know from experience that within weeks of state bans, new varieties of Spice which skirt the legal issues will be marketed. Being aware of new developments and sharing developments helps all of us combat drug abuse and addiction.

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