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This Ain’t the Old Spice Your Grandpa Used

Spice or K2 or Potpourri legally sold around the country as a legal cannabis substitute is truly “Killer Weed”. 

The Institute of Legal Medicine, Saarland University, 66421 Homburg, Germany; Experimental and Clinical Toxicology, Homburg, Germany, isolated two elements of ‘Spice’ that have psychoactive properties:  JWH-018 and a homologue of CP 47, 497.    For a few minutes after ingestion, they land in the brain along very similar pathways as cannabis, but they can hit with 28 -100 times the force for the brief amount of time it impacts.

These compounds are metabolized in the liver and eventually extracted in urine which means testing for these substances is not far away.  The duplicated studies conducted by research centers in Germany and in the European Union reveal that the variations of the product known as “Spice”  are extremely harmful physiologically, psychologically and cognitively.

These substances, in preliminary studies, have a poisonous effect on human bodies and brains.  “Spice” was first created by Dr. John Huffman at Clemson University in 1995 when he was exploring effects of cannabinoids on the brain. He found no medical benefits of this substance– only negative side effects. This is not a difficult substance to create.  By anecdotal evidence, one can liken the effects and side effects of ‘spice’ variants to ingesting synthetic chemicals found in synthetic carpeting and paint products.  The popularity of this substance is twofold – it has been legal and media attention since 2006 made its popularity as a powerful mood altering substance go viral.

‘Spice,’ dubiously marketed as a ‘natural’ product has become a public health concern as most of the psychoactive ingredients contained in the herbal mixture are unnatural and difficult to trace.  Spice is an extremely complex molecular compound that’s difficult to identify and the epidemiological activity in the human body is still being researched.  In the past few years of study it’s clear that some elements that appear in these compounds is a toxic byproduct from plastics.  Spice, masked by high mixtures of such benign elements as Vitamin E, contains elusive and subtle complexities of synthetic molecular compounds that are taking an extremely long time to decipher.  The European Union has performed the most extensive initial research on Spice products; what is consistently clear is the listed ingredients on most of the ‘spice’ products tested from 19 countries were not present and what was present were hybrid synthetic cannabinoid compounds with very protracted chemical structures much more harmful than cannabis.

In addiction, there exists a deadly core belief or maxim no matter the dangers: “it won’t happen to me.”  Despite recent warnings about the high potential of carcinogens in ‘spice’ and the high risk of overdosing with reactions that include psychosis, tachycardia and delusions, this product will remain too popular and continue with increased visits to emergency departments for the users.

Spice sells for $5 to $20 for a small vial – about a gram.  It’s cheap and widely available with no regulation and there’s no question that the variants of ‘spice’ will give the user a buzz.  However ‘buzz-kill’ may be too integrated a part of this substance.  It’s a dangerous drug with the most damage immediately impacting one’s brain, liver and lungs.  What we’ll discover is that those who choose to use this substance are not recreational drug users, but addicts seeking to bypass UA testing or otherwise trying to sidestep accountability to schools, parents, treatment programs or the legal system. 

The cliché spice of life with this substance needs to be modified to the kiss of death.  As with all designer drugs that enter the scene as new, exciting and harmless, reality proves that it’s not really new, it’s not exciting and more than likely it’s more deadly than it’s promoted to be.

There’s no end to the scourge of addictive synthetic drugs except through better educating the public on what’s out there, what to avoid, what to do when a person is addicted or negatively impacted and continuing to promote treatment as a pathway for restoring health.

6 Nov 2011

Ref: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction: “Spice and related synthetic cannabinoids”,  6 March 2009, Lisbon, Spain.

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