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Synthetic marijuana – or spice – can result in brain alterations similar to the real thing, but with the added danger that many of its chemical components and other ingredients are often unknown.


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What is it?

Spice is a mildly hallucinogenic mix of dried plant material that is laced with synthetic cannabinoids (chemicals similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana).1 But because the chemical composition of many products sold as spice is unknown, it can contain substances that could cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect.1

The Risks

When it comes to spice, you really don’t know what exactly is in the mix—many different ingredients have been found that have a high potential for abuse.1 The inconsistency and variability of ingredients can lead to unexpected harm to your body and brain.2 People taken to emergency rooms or Poison Control Centers have symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations. The drug has also been linked to acute kidney injuries, which left untreated, can lead the kidneys to shut down.3

Long-Term Effects

Filling your body with unknown substances can have severe consequences. New risks have continued to emerge – including signs of withdrawal and addiction – however, it’s not yet known how the synthetic cannabinoids and other ingredients in spice may affect you down the line.

The Bottom Line

It’s known that marijuana can limit your brain’s effectiveness,4 and synthetic versions can have the same impact on your developing brain. You can never predict exactly what’s in these mixes or how toxic it could be, and that’s a potent – potentially deadly – combination.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts: Spice (Synthetic Marijuana).
    Revised December 2012. Retrieved May 2013.
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  2. CNN. Teen narrowly escapes death after smoking synthetic marijuana.
    Updated February 2013. Retrieved May 2013.
    View Source
  3. UAB News. UAB Doctors: Synthetic marijuana dangerous for kidneys.
    Published February 2013. Retrieved May 2013.
    View Source
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Topics in Brief: Marijuana.
    Revised December 2011. Retrieved May 2013.
    View Source