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NIDA. (2019, February 19). Myth or Fact? "Spice Is Like Marijuana". Retrieved from

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The NIDA Blog Team
February 19 2019
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©Shutterstock/Igor Levin

You might have heard of the drug Spice (also known as K2). It’s sometimes called “fake weed” or “synthetic marijuana,” because some of the chemicals in Spice are similar to the ones in marijuana.

But it’s a myth that Spice is the same as marijuana; in fact, Spice is very different.

Spice contains chemicals that are sprayed on dried plant material; then, the material can be smoked or used in liquid form for e-cigarettes or vaporizers. Scientists call the chemicals synthetic cannabinoids.

Using Spice is a gamble.

It’s impossible to know exactly what's in Spice.

The amount and type of chemicals in each batch of the drug varies, partly because people who make it are constantly changing the ingredients. Every time certain chemical compounds are banned, makers can sometimes get around the new laws by creating different compounds that act in a similar way.

In fact, in 2014, law enforcement officials reported 177 different types of synthetic cannabinoid compounds.

Spice has unpredictable effects.

The health effects of Spice are also different from—and often stronger than—the effects of marijuana.

Spice acts on many different receptors in the brain. It produces unpredictable effects that can be dangerous. Spice can cause:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

In 2016, there were 2,695 calls to poison control centers for harmful effects from Spice.

The bottom line: Spice might look like marijuana, and drug dealers might call it fake weed, but those are gimmicks to get you to use it.

Learn more: A teen scientist is helping to solve mysterious drug-related deaths.