Designed in a lab to trigger the same mammalian neural systems as cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids can act many times stronger than pot and much more negatively, and have reportedly precipitated psychosis, heart attacks, suicides, and convulsions. John W. Huffman, designer of popular synthetic cannabinoids in Spice like JWH-018 has reportedly said, “People who use it are idiots. You don’t know what it’s going to do to you.”
MY EXPERIENCE WITH “SPICE”
I found a GREAT article from Kush Magazine discussing a dangerous, synthetic drug called “spice” that many youth are using as a substitute for cannabis, merely because it’s legal and obtainable at many headshops. And sometimes even convenience stores.
I myself have smoked spice before – I’ve tried K2 and Blue Dragon, the latter of which contains something called damiana leaf. I’ll tell you a little about my personal experiences with each. Both are now banned by the DEA – and similar incenses have since taken their places.
On my 20th birthday, my friends took me to see Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol. We had smoked some bud in the woods beforehand – Sour Diesel, if I remember correctly – and this is back when I was a paranoid, lightweight, “sometimes stoner” who couldn’t hold her THC very well. I was SO obvious about being high – snickering my ass off at every turn of the movie. Afterwards, I was craving another toke… but as it turned out, we found ourselves facing a depressing lack of the sticky stuff. Luckily, my best friend, Danica, had another plan. She took me to see a guy who had what she described to me as “something kinda like weed, but stronger.” Stronger than weed? I wondered. Note that this incident happened long before the days of my psychedelic forays, and took place even farther back than when my MJ consumption became regular. So not really being familiar with ANY drugs at this tender age, I was a little nervous about trying this new stuff.
Danica’s friend pulls up inside the parking garage we’re waiting in, and we relocate from her car to his. I slip inside and Mr. Stronger Than Weed informs me that his name is Christian. Christian asks if I’ve ever tried K2 before; I can see he already has his pipe packed with amber-colored leaves. K2 is easy on the eyes, but it tastes and smells as icky as it really is.
Taste aside – it got me HIGH AS HELL. Instead of snickering, I burst out laughing at everything – even things that weren’t really all that funny. It was a little bit like a sativa high, but I felt more clear-headed. There was no effect on my appearance, either. No bloodshot “stoner eyes”, couch-lock, or munchies. The high was also remarkably short – lasting about ten minutes total, whereas a good weed can last in me for up to half an hour, or sometimes forty minutes. I had a mild headache and felt very drained during my comedown. Rehydrating myself helped a lot.
The second time I tried a “spice” was when I was living alone in Studio City. I had been in California for only a few months, and I didn’t have my Cali I.D. or my medical marijuana card yet. My illegal hookup had run dry on me, and I only had a little bit of an indica nug left, but I needed a new pipe to even smoke those precious morsels since my last one had “mysteriously vanished” (read: my Mom took it and threw it out).
Stopping by an Armenian-run headshop a ways up the street from my apartment, I not only got the pipe I sought – but I noticed some interesting little packages in a glass display by the cash register. I inquired about them – and the store owner told me a little about what these things, which he called “incenses”, do to you when you smoke them. He gave me a free sample of one – and that’s when I was introduced to the Blue Dragon spice.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized how harmful spice can be. It’s a little confusing because, in order for these products to be legally sold, they must be labelled “not for human consumption” so that the manufacturers can pretend their “incense” isn’t really just a designer drug designed to lure the uninformed who are looking for something to get them high, but WON’T get them busted or be revealed in a workplace drug test.
Another scary revelation about spice… it isn’t regulated. And there’s not a lot of extensive research yet on its effects
You’d think that the fact that I didn’t even know what the hell “damiana” was would curb my desire to try it… but nope! I’d already had a fun time with K2, right? So why not try this Blue Dragon spice?
I stuffed some of the citrus-scented leaves (scattered among which appeared to be bits of dried fruit, almost like some tea concoction from Teavana!) into a slender one-hitter disguised as a cigarette and got my lighter going. It was a harsh hit, very dry. And it had a reaaaaalllly strange aftertaste I can’t even begin to describe. Just gross all around, but it yields an intense high. Nowadays, I would rather smoke a cigar than this junk. After about twenty times of smoking damiana, I became physically sick from just smelling it inside its little plastic container. My body knew what havoc the spice was wreaking on it, and it was protesting. But my first few times smoking Blue Dragon were really fun. Like pot, it tends to make he consumer horny. I laughed my ass off and tried calling every contact saved in my cellphone. It felt almost… speedlike!
My comedowns weren’t bad the first ten or so times I’d packed my hitter with spice. But after that, I started to feel nauseated… and splitting headaches set in. One day, I went back to the headshop and discovered that they no longer carried Blue Dragon, and although at first I felt terribly annoyed by this bit of news, I realized it was probably for the best. That stuff isn’t exactly cheap, anyways!
WHAT IS SPICE?
I did some research on why damiana and similar spices were being pulled by the DEA when I returned home from my failed quest – and was horrified to learn at some of the permanent detriment suffered by several heavy spice smokers. There were even a fair amount of deaths, according to the Associated Press.
An article on ScienceBlogs.com explained the body’s response to spice consumption like so:
According to this 2000 paper in Drug and Alcohol Dependence from the Huffman and Martin groups, JWH-018 binds to the psychotropic CB1 receptor with approximately 4 times the potency of the naturally-occurring THC. Unlike THC, which binds with almost equal affinity to CB1 and CB2 receptors, JWH-018 exhibits a 3-fold preference for CB1 receptors.
What does this mean? Well, the CB1 receptor is the primary means by which cannabinoids exert their psychotropic effects. The CB2 receptor, on the other hand, appears to be more involved in pain and inflammation and is therefore a very active area of research for new therapeutics.
So while JWH-018 has four-fold greater potency for CB1 receptors than THC in an isolated receptor binding study, how its effect compares to plain-old marijuana depends on other factors such as the relative amount in the product, how stable it is to combustion, how it’s metabolized in the body, among others.
So what in the heck is spice exactly? According to Home Health Testing’s Ultimate Guide, which can be read here:
Spice is slang for synthetic cannabis. It was once an actual brand but has become shorthand for a wide variety of similar products. It’s a mixture of herbs that have had synthetic cannabinoids sprayed on them. One of these cannabinoids is called JWH-018 and was invented in a lab to help with pain. The point of experimenting with cannabinoids was to eliminate the effects of cannabinoids that create a “high” while maintaining the pain relief effects. With JWH-018, this did not happen – actually JWH-018 is very potent, more potent than many forms of marijuana.
And why does HHT think is it so popular?
One of the reasons Spice has taken off in popularity is that JWH-018 can be made easily by combining a few commercial products. Its first non-lab use was in Asia, where it became an aid for plant growth. Much of the Spice you see in the United States still comes from manufacturers in Asia. Its purpose in the United States is quite different though – it is smoked by folks for a high that is still legal federally and in most states.
According to several studies, spice has very similar effects on the brain as cannabis.
You are supposed to be 18 years of age or older, but there have been many instances of headshops selling spice to minors, which understandably has a lot of parents worried.
Some other varieties of spice have names like Algerian Blend, Genie, k2, Smoke, Chill X, Sense, Yucatan Fire, Spice Diamond, Spice Silver, and Spice Gold.
And generally I don’t trust The Sun, but here’s another article about how it’s harming young consumers.
All in all, these deaths and those who have suffered other forms of damage to their health as a result of using spice are victims not only of ignorance, but of the war on drugs! They are afraid to try marijuana, or are unable to access it safely or easily.