It’s Not What You Think!
Many people have heard about Spice, also known as synthetic cannabis, fake pot, synthetic marijuana, legal weed, K2, herbal incense or potpourri. They know exactly what it is and, maybe, have been tempted to try it. But, some people think it is a seasoning for your food like paprika or pepper and have no idea how it is affecting people all over the world. So, what is Spice and is it a safe product to use?
Where Did It Come From?
Spice was launched in 2004 in the UK, and by 2006 had gained a considerable hold on the market, so the name Spice (along with another brand, K2) has become the generic term for all synthetic cannabis. At first, people believed it was simply a mixture of harmless herbs which had a similar effect to marijuana, and 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 looked very much like herbal tobacco or even potpourri. In fact, Spice is frequently 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 simply a strategy to ward off potential 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.
What Does it Look Like?
Spice looks rather like herbal tobacco, or indeed marijuana. It’s made from dried plant material and chopped up herbs, in a mixture of colors including beige, cream red and brown. Brand names include Spike and K2 of course, the best known of all, but it comes under many other names, including Black Mamba and Annihilation (hardly names for air fresheners).
It wasn’t long after the use of Spice became widespread that people started experiencing and reporting adverse side effects, including serious psychosis, and in 2008, the scientific community began to study what was actually contained in the synthetic cannabis mixtures.
What Is Spice Made Of?
The results were 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 artificial cannabinoids. These are not the “All Natural” ingredients like the descriptions on their packaging and web sites suggest they contain. These chemicals are similar to the natural cannabinoids found in marijuana, such as THC – tetrahydracannabinol. Spice may contain, among others, the substances JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, AM-2201 UR-144, XLR-11, AKB48 and cannabicyclohexanol. Even the prescription drug phenazapam has been found in some products.
Synthetic cannabinoids are produced as an oil or a solid, which can easily be incorporated into plant material – or any other low cost garbage which the manufacturers can get away with – to create a product which gives some kind of high.
The spice manufacturers had created clever artificial chemicals which attempted to get round the laws against cannabis. In fact, 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 began to pay attention to spice, and one after another, countries found that these products, far from being innocent, in fact contained very dangerous artificial chemicals, which were of course responsible for producing the so called natural psychotropic effects.
Is Synthetic Marijuana Legal?
In most countries around the world, including the United States, synthetic cannabis has been made illegal. Spice use is also banned for U.S. Military personnel.. There are, unfortunately, some countries around the world where the synthetic cannabinoids used to produce spice are still legal. This is creating a tangle of problems for the authorities in the U.S and is probably increasing the use of synthetic cannabis.
The manufacturers of synthetic cannabis are trying to work one step ahead of the law, and are continuously creating compounds which side step the regulations. It’s 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 some of the known synthetic cannabinoids are banned, the producers in a matter of weeks seem able to 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.
What Does It Do To You?
The effects on people using spice are many and various, and none of them are good. They include symptoms of addiction, vomit, extreme agitation, and psychotic episodes including hallucinations, 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”.
In fact, synthetic marijuana is thought 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. Most users are young, and ignorant to the negative effects synthetic marijuana can have on them.
The real problem with this dangerous substance is that it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s sold with a nice, natural image, offer the user harmless herbs and a natural high. In fact spice is an unpredictable and artificial chemical mixture with no way of telling what you’re actually using, and the effects of which are proven to be potentially very harmful indeed.
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