K2 and Spice: Synthetic Marijuana Facts

“But Mom, it’s legal!” shouts your teen after you find a packet of synthetic marijuana in their room. Are you prepared to tell them the dangers of synthetic marijuana, spice, or K2? Do you even know anything about it? Here are the basic facts about this designer drug that could be available at gas stations and smoke shops in your neighborhood.

What is it?

Synthetic marijuana drugs, most often known as Spice or K2, are natural herbs that are sprayed with cannaboniods. Cannabonids are synthetic chemicals that act like marijuana that researchers have used to study the effects of marijuana. Natural herbs contained in Spice and K2 can include beach bean, blue Egyptian lily, dwarf skullcap, Indian warrior, Lion’s tail, Indian lotus, and honeyweed. While manufacturers claim that these herbs are the cause of the high induced when smoking, they are actually doing a much darker deed. Studies show that they cannabonoids that are sprayed onto the herbs are not included on the contents of the package. This means that you never know what you are truly putting into your body.

What does it look like?

K2 and Spice have a variety of looks. The drug can be green, brown, blonde, or red, and its scent can vary depending on the ingredients. These products can look very similar to marijuana or can even look like potpourri.

They are often found in small 2 to 3 inch silver packets with the name of the blend or phrases like “herbal incense” or “herbal smoking blend” appearing on the packaging.

How is it used, and what is it like?

Synthetic marijuana is always smoked. Some users report that the high is similar to marijuana but is much shorter, and it is very relaxing to the body.

Most users report that the smoke is more harsh than marijuana and often makes the lungs ache and the throat burn. Other users report strong adverse effects to synthetic marijuana, including (among other nasty side effects) extreme paranoia, anxiety, depression, disorientation, and nausea.

Is it illegal?

Yes and no. Five of the additive cannabonoids were made illegal in March of 2011. These chemicals are JWH-018, JWH-073, CP-47,497, JWH-200, and Cannabicyclohexanol. HU-210 is completely illegal as well. Other laws vary by state, but many are now making all synthetic marijuana products illegal.

Is it addictive or harmful?

It is unknown if synthetic marijuana causes addiction, but it has been noted that the withdrawal from it is similar to narcotics. The DEA said that it is a dangerous drug citing that it causes “adverse health effects associated with its use include seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, racing heartbeat, and elevated blood pressure.” There have been no official studies on humans to conclude the exact harms that can be caused by the drug.

How do I know if my teen is using K2?

A 2011 study by the University of Michigan found that 11.4 percent of teens admitted to using synthetic marijuana products in the past year, with almost 35 percent of respondents admitting to smoking marijuana in the same time period. There is no drug test available for K2 or Spice, so it is important to talk to your teen about the potential adverse effects of K2 and to keep an open dialogue with them about drug use.

If you suspect that your teen could be using drugs of any kind, it is important to find them the help they need. Whether that help comes in the form of a counselor, drug rehab center, or specialized boarding school, it is crucial that you take action now.


  1. Cheryl Rayl says:

    There is a drug test for it although the configuration changes so often there is a risk of a false negative.

Share Your Thoughts