What Is Spice / K2? The Facts On Synthetic Marijuana


Spice / K2: It’s Not What You Think!

Many people have heard about Spice or K2, also known as synthetic cannabis, fake pot, synthetic marijuana, legal weed, herbal incense and potpourri.

Most people, though, think ‘spice’ is a seasoning for your food like paprika or pepper. They think ‘K2’ is a famous mountain.

And that’s exactly what the makers of this dangerous drug want non-users to think…

Most people have no idea how this awful synthetic drug is affecting millions of people all over the world.

The word is slowly leaking out, however, as reports to Poison Control and emergency room visits have skyrocketed over the past few years.

So, what exactly is Spice / K2?

What Does Spice Look Like?

Traditional smoked Spice/K2 looks like herbal tobacco, or natural marijuana.

It’s actually made from dried plant material and chopped up herbs in a mixture of colors including beige, cream red and brown. The active ingredients are sprayed onto the plant material.

spice diamond open packet

The most popular brands sold today are Spice and K2.

But Spice is actually sold under more than 500 names including Mojo, Scooby Snax, Black Mamba and Annihilation.

Cloud 9 synthetic marijuana droplets

Today, vaping the liquid form of synthetic marijuana is a fast-rising trend. The increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, vape pens and hookah pens – especially in high schools and universities – is the reason behind this shift.

What Is Spice Made Of?

Natural marijuana gains its mind-altering effects from a chemical known as THC.

Synthetic marijuana, on the other hand, is coated with synthetic cannabinoids – a family of over 700 research chemicals.

In other words, synthetic marijuana / K2 / Spice is completely different than natural marijuana.

In 2008, the scientific and law enforcement communities began to study what was actually contained in synthetic cannabis mixtures. The result of the scientific analyses was alarming.

Analysis showed that rather than being a simple mixture of harmless herbs, such as canavalia maritima, leonotis leonurus, zornia latifolia and others, the product had in fact been sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids.

These are not the “All Natural” ingredients listed on their packaging and on the sellers’ web sites. These chemicals are similar to natural cannabinoid found in marijuana, THC – tetrahydracannabinol, but affect brain receptors differently.

Spice and K2 may contain one of many synthetic cannabinoids such as JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, AM-2201 UR-144, XLR-11, AKB4, cannabicyclohexanol and AB-CHMINACA, AB-PINACA or AB-FUBINACA. Even the prescription drug, phenazapam, has been found in some products.

Synthetic cannabinoids happens to fit into the same receptors that THC latches onto in the brain, so they can have an effect similar to THC.

However, some synthetic cannabinoids are 100X stronger than THC and many operate on other brain receptors, too.

This can cause a number of significant negative side effects including high blood pressure, blurred vision, heart attack, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations, and severe anxiety and paranoia.

Deaths have also been associated with use of the drug.

Synthetic marijuana is not sold as a single brand, nor does it make use of just one ingredient.

There are a number of different manufacturers who use the same basic approach, but produce very different chemicals.

How Is Synthetic Marijuana Made?

It wasn’t long after the use of Spice & K2 became available that people started experiencing and reporting adverse side effects, including serious psychosis.

Synthetic cannabinoids are produced as an oil or a crystalline powder that can easily be sprayed on plant material or any other low cost garbage the manufacturers can get away with to create a product that can be smoked and provide some kind of high.

Most spice manufacturers don’t follow high manufacturing standards. Many of the chemicals are produced in cheap basement labs in China or Russia.

Because of the wide variety of chemicals involved and the sloppy manufacturing methods used to produce them, the health risks of one batch may not be the same as another batch, turning use of the drug into a game of Russian roulette.

Chemical impurities also carry additional, and possibly much greater, risks.

In liquid forms of Spice or K2, the variety of chemicals may be greater. Some suspect that a few brands of liquid Spice may contain traces of synthetic psychedelics such as 2C-P.

Analysis by the German government in 2008 showed that some products contained almost none of the supposedly mild traditional herbs that were advertised as ingredients.

Around the world, governments have begun to pay attention to spice. One after another, countries find that these products, far from being innocent, contain very dangerous artificial chemicals which are responsible for producing the so called “natural” psychotropic effects.

Spice manufacturers continue to develop new varieties of chemicals in an attempt to get around new laws against synthetic cannabis.

Very few synthetic cannabinoids have been tested on human beings, so none of them can be considered safe.

Where Did Spice Come From?

Spice (synthetic cannabinoid) was first sold as a recreational drug in 2004, in the UK.

By 2006, it had gained a considerable hold on the market, and the brand name Spice (along with another brand, K2) had become a generic term for all synthetic cannabis.

At first, people believed Spice was simply a mixture of harmless herbs that had a similar effect to marijuana, so it was legally sold all over the world, especially via the internet. It was attractively packaged in small colorful sachets, and generally marketed as a herbal smoking tobacco substitute, or as incense. The packaging had a kind of 60’s, summer of love, retro feel, which gave it an aura of harmlessness.

The product itself looks very much like herbal tobacco or even potpourri.

In fact, Spice is often sold as potpourri, room deodorizer or incense, purporting to be an innocent product for scenting rooms and will usually have the warning, “Not for human consumption” on the packet.

But this is just a marketing strategy to ward off legal threats.

Consumers, through the grapevine, know perfectly well that they are buying something intended to be smoked in a joint or a bong pipe.

Is Synthetic Marijuana Legal?

In most countries around the world, including the United States, synthetic cannabis is illegal. Spice use is also banned for U.S. Military personnel.

There are, unfortunately, some countries around the world where synthetic cannabinoids remain legal. This is creating a tangle of problems for authorities in the U.S and is probably increasing the use of synthetic cannabis.

In May, 2013, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) took action and formally banned Synthetic Marijuana as a Class I drug, making distribution of legal weed a federal crime in the US.

Unfortunately, the DEA action only covered a small number of chemicals, leaving pushers legal room to sell different chemicals in their place. Some states are taking further action to limit all forms of spice.

The manufacturers of synthetic cannabis work hard to stay one step ahead of the law and are continuously creating new compounds to side-step regulations.

Today, it’s basically a cat and mouse game between the creators of these dangerous substances and the legislators who seek to protect the unsuspecting public, especially young people who are easily conned into thinking that they have somehow found legal, safe weed.

As fast as common synthetic cannabinoids are banned, the producers create different versions which can slip through the legal net. This is creating huge problems as the authorities attempt to cut of the many heads of the hydra.

Today, it is estimated there are well over 200 synthetic cannabinoids sold on the street, with about 50 of them currently listed in the US as federal Class I drugs.

The following 7-minute news report by CNN explains just how hard it is for law enforcement to get their hands around this fast-growing problem.

What Does Spice/K2 Do To You?

Almost no synthetic cannabinoids sold on the street today have been tested on human beings; none of them can be considered safe.

The effects on people who use spice are many and varied, but often it’s bad news.

Side effects include many of the classic symptoms of hard core drug addiction: intense cravings, vomiting, extreme agitation, psychotic episodes including hallucinations, and even heart attacks.

An expert in the field and the man who the chemical JWH is named after, Professor John W Huffman, is quoted as saying,

People who use it are idiots.

Today, synthetic marijuana is widely believed to be more dangerous than the real thing.

According to CBS News, more than 11,400 people attended the emergency room in 2010 due to the effects of Spice.

In 2015, the number of bad reaction reports to US Poison Control centers has tripled vs. 2014.

Most users are young and ignorant to the negative effects synthetic marijuana can have on them. Some have died from their first exposure to the drug.

The real problem with fake weed is that it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s sold with a nice, natural image, promising the user harmless herbs and a natural high.

In fact, spice is an unpredictable, untested synthetic chemical that offers no labeling to see what you’re actually using, and the effects of use can be devastatingly harmful to many.

Is Synthetic Marijuana Addictive?

We get this question a lot.

The short answer is, YES.  Absolutely.

It’s nothing like real marijuana, in this way.

Unfortunately, it’s taken the medical, scientific and legal community years to catch-up to the realities of this new class of drug.

Today, there is general consensus among health professionals and government organizations that synthetic marijuana is addictive.

But the education of America has really just begun.

During the period 2009-2012, the US experienced a sharp rise in Poison Control Center calls, police calls and emergency room visits related to synthetic marijuana.

By 2012, synthetic weed had become the second-most abused drug in US high schools, according to the NIDA.

The side effects and withdrawal symptoms were becoming clear to public officials, so many cities and states began to ask for legal action.

In April and August of 2015, the country experienced yet another outbreak of overdoses related to one of the newer street chemicals.

In reaction to these outbreaks, leading government and industry health organizations now classify synthetic cannabinoids as dangerous and addictive drugs. These include:

While most professionals agree on the addictive nature of spice and K2, serious medical research into synthetic cannabis is still underway.

Where Can I Learn More About Spice/K2?

While we wait for research to be completed, the next best way to learn about spice addiction is to listen to spice addicts and their loved ones tell their stories.

This is why we launched this site in 2013.

Since then, our users have submitted over a thousand personal accounts of addiction to synthetic marijuana.

The best 500 stories are available for you to read on this site.  All of the stories posted here are real, raw and unedited (except for fixing typos/formatting).

The user stories and discussions on this site paint a consistent and vivid picture of just how addictive spice can be, for example:

If you haven’t started using synthetic marijuana, then I hope this article steers you clear of it.

If you are using synthetic marijuana (smoking or vaping), then I hope you’ve learned that spice is dangerous, addictive and quitting spice can be hard.

Don’t believe people who tell you this isn’t a serious addiction.

Please get professional help, if you need it.

Is Spice Ruining Your Life?

Call Now: (855)676-9691 (DESKTOP InLine 320x250 Ad)

If you or a loved one are addicted to spice, call our hotline at (855) 676-9691 to learn about treatment programs for synthetic drug addiction.

What's Your Story?

If you have firsthand experience with synthetic marijuana and are willing to share your story, you can help other people to gain new insights into their own struggle with this awful drug.


  • Cody

    The goverment doesnt understand! If marijuana was legal there would be less people buying and using this potentually deadly alternative.

  • http://goo.gl/1kZa Spud Z. Pecker

    Then why is it still being sold in Washington State?

  • rhyth

    I called the cops three times telling them what’s was going on. I don’t think they care.

  • aaron

    synthetic marijuana almost destroyed my life I wouldn’t eat wouldn’t sleep wouldn’t even take my kids out to do anything because his drug at such a control over my life I smoked it for over 4 years the withdraws from that are so horrible he just want to kill yourself don’t there is hope you will feel better and go back to normal but yoyou need the support of family and friends and no matter how bad you want to go back to it don’t I know easier said than done I’ve been off of it for over 2 weeks now and I’m beginning to go back to normal I would never go back to that demon

  • Noha

    I thought I was going to die I was vomiting and everything. I was with my friend and his other friend they told me it was some kind of strawberry marijuana so I smoked some and I kept feeling like I was part of a dream everything looked like a cartoon I eventually had to call my mom to get me.
    I told my friend I was pretty shore it was spice and he needed to get rid of it because I don’t want him to go through the same thing, it was truly scary.

    • Baelynn

      The same thing happened to me but I couldn’t even control my body and I slipped into a seizure.

  • kimberly miller

    Wow…this is unbelieveable. I just saw a report about Spice, had never heard of it before, and wanted to find out more. The stories on this site are heartbreaking…all my love and support truly goes out to individuals dealing with this awful addiction. Please know it’s not your fault, and in many cases, this is bigger than you- seek help. I’m assuming many hospitals will not know much about Spice, but I’m sure there are specialized rehab centers that could point you in the right direction. Call everywhere until you get advice.

    There’s so little info available about this substance- does anyone know exactly what part of the brain / receptors this affects? I’m seeing these AWFUL withdrawal stories, and so many tales of people being unable to withdraw cold turkey and having to go back to it because of the terrible side effects of being off it. This is making me so sad for all of you. I’m curious if something like small doses of suboxone (a medication used to almost totally kill the effects of heroin/pill/opiate withdrawal) could be effective for people trying to quit spice. This medication has incredible success rates of helping people get off opiates, as you don’t go through the withdrawal. MUCH higher chances of getting clean if this is used vs. cold turkey. After stabilizing you cut the dose of suboxone until you are totally off it. I’m very curious if this would help with spice WD’s. Call around to addiction specialists in your area and see if they can help. I’m thinking of you all! xo Kimberly

  • Unknown

    I’m gonna tell you a story about me. I smoked synthetic weed for 9 years. That’s right 9 years. Had 3 seizures on it. You’re probably saying this guy is stupid. Yeah I am stupid. This crap is no good. Anyways… I was bad off on it. Never ate. Never drank. Never slept. Never went to school. Just smoked all day. No rehab will help. Nothing will. You have to have the will power to quit. It’s all in you. The story goes one day I was smoking dead man walking with my brother. We had smoked about 7 joints in about 2 hours. We felt fine you know giggling and laughing. Then all of a sudden I collapsed. Dead on scene 4 times to be exact. You might say I’m crazy but I saw god that day. And he told me he was gonna give me one more chance at life. He told me if I didn’t part ways with the demons I had on my back that I was not entering his kingdom. Quickly I had awoken in the hospital with tubes and ivs in me. I looked at my mom and I had told her the story. And I had told her that u was sorry for everything. Everything I’ve ever done to her. Life was miserable. But that’s how powerful that drug is. You want misery. You want the suffering but for what? A 10 min high if lucky 20?! After that I changed my ways. I got back into school. I started going to church. I met the women of my dreams. Trust me on this ppl if you’re smoking it. Take this story to the heart. Don’t be me and screw up your life. It’s not worth the struggle. Live life to the fullest and be the person you set out to be! Stay safe with all love and prayers

    • Marie

      I love your story! This is what our prayer is for my brother! That he finds God! Then all the stress from this addiction would be worth it! I’m happy your story has a happy ending! I’m praying ours will too! :-)

  • http://livingwithteen.blogspot.com/ Mary

    Blaming vaping for the resurgence of Spice is irresponsible. Vaping has been proven an effective smoking-cessation activity. Please don’t confuse illegal drug use with the use of vaping to stop smoking.

    • http://spiceaddictionsupport.org/ SpiceAddictionSupport


      We agree. But no one on this site is blaming vaping for the recent increase in Spice use. I haven’t seen this said anywhere else, either.

      That said, the rapid increase in vaping in our society is a complicating factor when it comes to synthetic drug abuse. For the following reasons:

      1. Liquid forms of synthetic drugs are odorless & tasteless. This makes their use much easier to hide when vaping vs. when smoking. Much less ‘pothead’ stigma, too.

      2. Vape pens make it much easier to mix & match several drugs into a single hit. When synthetic cannabinoids are involved, this can be extremely dangerous due to the many unknowns involved.

      3. Vaping as an activity is growing fastest among teens, where use of synthetic cannabinoids is also very popular.

      • Anonymous

        I use to smoke a lot of spice and I never had a bad trip I never felt cravings I just really enjoyed the psychedelic high and hallucinations. I was addicted to heroin for a while but my father was able to get me off that stuff i vape now to avoid ciggaretts and i smoke nicotine vaping is sometimes a better alternative to smoking ciggaretts well I enjoy vaping and spice never gave me a bad teip but it is a bad drug not recommended.

  • ChooseLife

    My brother is currently in prison for illegal drug related crime and after two years of being clean(ish) has now become hooked on this new spice stuff. It is heartbreaking to see what damage it is doing further to what he has already done to himself and our family. At this rate he is going to rot away in prison smoking a legal high. Not exactly cool or “gangsta” is it. Getting high with a bunch of scum in a prison cell. He has become the opposite of what he could of been. The saddest thing? He cannot stop himself. Even at rock bottom, he continues to tunnel further down.

  • Dlgv

    WTF? I didnt know what this “scooby doo snax potpurri” was, until my husband and I were at a friends house, he gave us and told us it was syntheyic marijuana, i scared a little bit, but we smoked anyway. To be honest, i didnt felt anything, so i smoked it more times to see if i could get the trippy shit u know, but no, nothing happened. (Thank god maybe). But in the other hand, my husband got so so so horny, he wanted to fckuk every second, (he smoked normal marijuana once and felt sleepy, down, etc) but this time with this synthetic stuff was all active and awake u know. We didnt know what was that but ay least we didnt felt all the things u guys are saying. (Sorry my english is bad) thanks.

  • John Johnson

    I wish this garbage would not be called synthetic marijuana. It has about as much in common with marijuana as heroine. True synthetic marijuana would be THC. The end.

    • http://spiceaddictionsupport.org/ SpiceAddictionSupport


      We agree.

      But the people who sell synthetic cannabinoids often market it as a “safe, legal and untestable” alternative to natural weed.

      There is also the inconvenient truth that synthetic cannabinoids act on the same brain receptors as THC.

      Until the distributors stop marketing it as legal weed, the term will probably stick.

  • Marie

    I need some fast advise! My brother has been addicted to spice for over 3 years! He has a almost 2 year old and a baby due in 6 weeks. He was a good kid from a good family and is married to a great girl. I guess he got into pot in college and decided to do spice so they can’t drug test him at his job. Since then his life has been spiraling out of control!! He leaves on 5 day binges in his car. At first we thought he was dead. Like 3 months ago my parents bought them a house two blocks from my parents house to help him get clean and help take care of his family. He has lost 7 jobs in the last year because of spice. Since they’ve moved him up here things have gotten way worse. Instead of trying to pay them back and helping pay for there mortgage he has been disappearing on drug binges. This was his 3rd one in the last 3 months. He’s taking my parents under financially!! He had just gotten hired at the post office which is a great job and that only lasted 3 weeks and then started back on them heavily. Blew off his job and took off again. His wife just left him cause she’s been saying she would for years and finally she hit the end of her rope! After she left he asked my mom to barrow her car for work and took off on another spice binge in my mom’s car. Keep in mind his car came back all damaged on his last binge. Broken window, mirror missing, paint all scratched. So this one also lasted 5 days before the cops found him. I had reported he took a gun with him and I thought he could be suicidal. The cop ended up putting him in the psych department on a suicidal hold for 72 hours. Which was great but It’s been over 72 hours and my parents and his wife are on the way to talk about his discharge plan. They said they are unable to hold him anymore. His wife said they are not allowing him back home or to my parents house. She said it’s the streets or rehab. She told my parents if they allow him home she’s leaving with the grandkids and they won’t see her anymore!! I agree 100 percent he needs rehab and consequences for his actions I’m just worried he could kill himself. I want to know your thoughts? They can’t continue to enable him. He doesn’t want help, he has no money or car. Damaged car on his last binge. So do you agree to kick him out on the streets with no money or car etc… what’s the best thing to do?? Any advise is appreciated!! This drug is destroying our entire family!

    • http://spiceaddictionsupport.org/ SpiceAddictionSupport


      It sounds like from your description that spice rehab or another type of inpatient facility might be the way to go.

      You’ll need health insurance (any kind) and a committed patient to make inpatient rehab worthwhile, though. If you think this might be the right option, then give our hotline a call (number above) to learn more.

      All the best,

      Bobby T.

    • alroy leighton

      Hi marie how are you.
      it looks like your brother will need to make up his mind about what he wants to do with his life. He has a wife and children and also suppportive parents. You do not need to feel guilty for his actions, for that matter no one should. If i was you I will give him options as in rehabs and leave it at that. He is an adult and needs to make his own decision…
      Its hard advise but thats the bottom line…all the best

  • Worthian

    I smoked it for about 6 months straight and quit no problem. It was a little uncomfortable but when u compare it to my 4 year xanax addiction it is nothing. Now that is hell! I could see why some people have difficulty quitting spice, but I guess it was easier for me cause I know the true horror of a real drug withdrawal. Xanax will take your soul…

  • Jason The Otaku

    blame obama for being a complete retard and keeping marijuana illegal in the first place this country is a pos hope the next president takes after the leaders of mexico and canada and legalizes it once and for all jesus christ

  • kenz

    its not even 2016…