K2, Spice: The New “Fake” Marijuana

Posted under Club Drugs on April 12, 2011

Parents who try to keep their kids away from illicit drugs like marijuana may now have something else to worry about – “fake pot.” Fake pot simulates the effects of marijuana, and up until recently, has been perfectly legal. Although authorities are aware of these drugs, new substitutes are making their way to gas stations near you just as quickly as old ones are banned.

Fake marijuana is sold under many names. You may hear it referred to as K2, Spice, Blaze, or Black Mamba. It is made by spraying different herbs and spices with manmade chemicals that mimic the drug THC found in marijuana. This is what allows the fake weed to produce effects similar to its illegal sister version.

There are five primary chemicals used to spray the herbs and spices. They are JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. JWH-018 has been widely used because it is relatively easy to manufacture, requiring only two steps with commercial chemicals. In November 2010, the DEA announced that it would be controlling the sale and manufacture of these substances in order to investigate public safety concerns.

Spice comes in the form of dry leaves and is marketed as incense. However, teens have been buying it up by the bagful and rolling it into cigarettes or smoking it in pipes. It can also be drunk like tea. Spice costs in the neighborhood of $40 for a three gram bag – similar to what you would expect to pay for marijuana.

The problem with these types of drugs is that they have only been around since 2006 and their long-term effects have not been well-documented. Another concern is the purity of the chemicals used to mimic THC. Since 2009, the DEA has received a number of reports of individuals who have had to visit poison control centers and hospitals because of vomiting, increased heartbeat, hallucinations and seizures. There have also been two reported cases of suicide that have resulted from hallucinations.

Because of these concerns, on March 1 of this year, the DEA released a statement prohibiting the production, sale, and possession of any of the five chemicals used to make fake marijuana. This also makes its byproducts such as Spice illegal. These chemicals will be temporarily banned for a period of one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) investigate the potential health and safety issues.

Another important fear is that teens have been a major consumer of these products. Because the brain continues to develop until the age of 25, it is possible that these products could cause some form of cognitive impairment. And, like marijuana, these types of drugs are considered to be a gateway drug to stronger substances like cocaine, meth, and ecstasy. Parents must be educated about these substances and should talk to their kids about the dangers posed by them. Just because something has been legal does make it safe.