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Spice: The One Hit Wonder

By: Beverly Bryant, MD 

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.

Often packaged in bright colors, featuring logos that look like soda labels or cartoon figures, Spice was originally sold as the “legal” form of marijuana. It was sold in tobacco shops, convenience stores, gas stations and online. But Spice, or K2, is 100 times more potent than marijuana. Because drug labs change the molecular preparation frequently to stay ahead of the law, some formulations are quite deadly and most can’t be detected by urine drug screens.

Several health issues have been reported as a result of Spice use, such as hallucinations, severe agitation, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, coma and suicidal behaviors. Spice is also thought to be a “gateway drug” that could lead to other drug use.

Mississippi leads the nation in Spice overdoses by 3:1, making headlines in the New York Times, ABC, Fox News, Forbes magazine and other national media sites. As of May 2015, there were 1,253 overdoses from Spice in Mississippi and 17 deaths. In some cases, such as that of 19-year-old Conner Eckhardt of California, one hit can result in coma and death. This leaves little room for experimentation.

Spice is particularly popular among college students. A 2011 study published online in “Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy” by BioMed Central found that Spice had been used by nearly one in 10 college students, especially by males and early college students. The study also revealed that Spice use was higher among college students than many other drugs that are commonly monitored in adolescents and young adults.

What can parents do? Be involved. Keep an open dialogue with young people. Notice changes in behavior or function. Spend time together and know their friends. Discuss concerns about Spice and be aware of their online activity. Remember, knowledge is power!