The Dangers of Spice–Synthetic Cannabinoids and Your Health

The dangers of Spice or synthetic cannabinoids have been regularly in the news as Spice use has peaked in the US. Typically, we see reportsSpice Addiction of its recent popularity and negative, even deadly effects, but there still seems to be a great deal of misinformation about the nature of the drug. In fact, what is known as Spice is often not simply one drug and that is part of the dangerousness for users. What is available on the market for users is not regulated for ingredients or dosages. Consequently, a user does not know exactly what is being consumed at any time.

Some Misinformation about Spice

One of the most common misconceptions about Spice is that it is thought to be a marijuana or cannabis replacement. However, synthetic cannabinoids tend to have unexpected effects that are dissimilar to cannabis. For example, Spice mixtures mimic the effects of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) but often induce more intense and more prolonged effects with smaller doses than regular cannabis.  Users have been known to have serious health problems occurring in various bodily systems and functioning such as respiratory distress, psychosis, aggression and seizures. These effects have a typical rapid and very acute onset that requires emergency medical attention. Unfortunately, some users have died.

Spice and Psychosis

Prolonged use of Spice can lead to multiples types of impairment. A common effect is psychosis in which one experiences hallucinations and/or delusions. Psychosis impairs the ability to be in touch with reality and can cause disorganized, even dangerous behavior toward self or others.  Some Spice users have experienced prolonged periods of psychosis that in extreme cases have lasted weeks. Typically these reactions require psychiatric hospitalization. While people without a psychiatric illness can have such reactions, those who do have a mental health illness prior to use are at risk for exacerbated symptoms that also may require hospitalization.

Forms of Spice

It has been difficult for regulations and laws to address the illegal marketing of substances typically known as Spice. Many are made in other countries, particularly China and shipped to the US. Also, regulation is difficult because the manufacturers continually change the ingredients. When sold, synthetic cannabinoids are typically mixed with other ingredients and marketed as products labeled ‘not for human consumption’. Some distributors have packaged the drugs as herbal incense or potpourri, for example.