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Spice, K2 and the Problem of Synthetic Cannabinoids

NCJ Number
Paul Cary
Date Published
4 pages
This report provides information on synthetic cannabinoids, including Spice and K2, that addresses their characteristics, effects on users, their growing popularity, and the current status of law regarding the use of these drugs.
Synthetic cannabinoids represent the most recent development in "designer drugs," which are pharmaceuticals that are created or reformulated (if the drug already exists) in order to avoid having the molecular structure that characterizes drugs that are illegal under current law. The goal of the clandestine manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids is to satisfy users' demands for drugs that can produce desired effects with prescriptions or other legal constraints. The reported pharmacological effects of smoked synthetic cannabinoids are similar to those of marijuana. This is not surprising since Spice and K2 are THC agonists, which means they chemically bind to the same brain receptor (CB1) and trigger many of the same responses as marijuana. The physiological effects of synthetic cannabinoids include increased heart rate and blood pressure, altered state of consciousness, mild euphoria and relaxation, and perceptual alterations (time distortion). Other effects are the intensification of sensory experiences, pronounced cognitive effects, impaired short-term memory, and an increase in reaction times. Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed under dozens of product names, including Zombie World, Bad to the Bone, Black Mamba, Blaze, Fire and Ice, Dark Night, Earthquake, Berry Blend, the Moon, and G-Force. Synthetic cannabinoids are retailed widely on the Internet, "head" shops, and alternative medicine stores. Currently, there is no Federal ban on most of the synthetic cannabinoids. As a result, the current legal status of synthetic cannabinoids is an evolving patchwork of local and State laws. Products such as Spice and K2 have been banned in approximately 12 States and in some local jurisdictions. More such prohibitions are being considered in many State legislatures. 14 notes