Straight, No Chaser: Spice Drugs aka Herbal High aka K2 aka Synthetic Marijuana


So have you ever wondered why incense seems to relax you so? In our ongoing effort to keep you up to date with the latest drug teens may be using, today’s topic introduces “Spice” aka “herbal high.” Simply put, spice products are an effort to create a legal synthetic marijuana. You may be thinking: “Why wouldn’t they just find some marijuana?” Let’s pose and answer at some questions related to the topic.
How does this work? These drugs are synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists, meaning these chemical compounds interact (fit into) the receptors where cannabis does, producing similar effects.


So it is the same as marijuana? No. The substances affect other parts of the body than cannabinoid receptors, which is how side effects and other symptoms are produced.
What types of symptoms are produced? Clinical symptoms are variable, but in a majority of cases, altered mental status and rapid heart beats occur, along with the typical high one gets from marijuana. Most patients normalize after 2-4 hours, assuming additional quantities aren’t inhaled. Additional symptoms described have included seizures, hallucinations, anxiety and very vivid dreams.
Is this as safe as marijuana? No. Many of these drugs are much more potent than the active substance in marijuana (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – THC), therefore, the psychoactive dose may be much less. Given that marijuana and these substances aren’t some for effect per se, but habitually and recreationally, the potential for toxic inhalations is more significant. Furthermore, these substances are associated with addiction syndromes and withdrawal symptoms.
Do they show up on drug screens? No, not currently. Therein lies part of the attraction.


How do people obtain these substances? Therein lies more danger. If you’re in the know, you’re in the know. If you’re not, you could be playing with fire (no pun intended). These substances are easily obtainable legally, including on the Internet. The packaging usually refers to the content as herbal incense and “not for human consumption.” Many of these drugs are much more potent than delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), therefore, the psychoactive dose may be < 1 mg.
But they’re legal? To be clear, selling and possession of these substances is illegal in the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are currently determining if and how these entities will be permanently controlled in the United States.
The Straight, No Chaser recommendation is to find a way to get high on sunshine.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
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