Spice, also known as synthetic marijuana, is marketed as a “natural,” legal alternative to marijuana. But the reality is that many brands of spice are illegal and even the legal brands carry serious health risks. Many of the damaging effects of marijuana are also present for spice users.
Although spice is advertised as being natural, the chemicals present in the mixture that give users a high are actually synthetic cannabinoids. Cannabinoids bind to receptors in the brain that affect memory, coordination, learning, and mood. The chemicals present in spice replicate the effects THC, the main cannabinoid in marijuana and they have a very similar effect on the brain. In some cases, these synthetic chemicals have an even stronger effect on the brain than THC and can lead to paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations.
Most of the common cannabinoids found in spice have been outlawed by the DEA as Class 1 Controlled Substances because of the high likelihood for abuse. Because of this, manufacturers of spice are continually looking for new chemicals to use in spice. The new chemicals haven’t been researched or tested to identify their effects or what kinds of damage they may be causing. This means that spice can be a very unpredictable drug, where even experienced users may find themselves having negative side effects that they haven’t had before.
The most commonly reported side effects of spice are confusion, hallucinations, vomiting, rapid heart rate, and agitation. Spice has also been known to raise blood pressure and restrict blood flow to the heart, which in a few cases has led to heart attack. Because it is impossible to know exactly what ingredients are contained in each brand of spice, it is difficult to predict what all of its effects might be, which is one of the most dangerous aspects of the drug.