Cite this article

NIDA. (2015, August 18). Why Be a Zombie?—Spice and Health Risks. Retrieved from

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The NIDA Blog Team
August 18 2015
K2 Spice package
Image courtesy of Coolidge Youth Coalition

We’ve noted before that one of the disturbing things about Spice (also known as K2, “fake weed,” “Bliss,” etc.) is that you can never know what’s in it. Spice isn’t really “fake marijuana”; it’s a combination of chemicals sprayed onto a leaf to make you feel like you are using real marijuana.  Even when two envelopes of Spice look exactly alike—same graphics, same words—the ingredients in one envelope can be completely different from the ingredients in the other.

That means if you use Spice, you don’t know what you’re putting into your body. What’s even more disturbing than that is what those unknown ingredients can do once they get inside a person.

More ER visits, and worse

K2/Zombie DC, a new information campaign in Washington, D.C., has lots of information about the risks of using “fake weed.” Judging from recent statistics, those risks are growing.

Using Spice is being linked to more health problems, and some of those problems are more serious than in the past. It isn’t news that Spice can be dangerous, but in 2015 so far, emergency room visits have increased dramatically by people who have used it. In Alabama, there were 400 ER visits related to using Spice in one month, and two of those Spice users died.

It’s happening in lots of places. Mississippi, New York, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, and Texas have seen similar increases of Spice users “experiencing extreme anxiety, violent behavior and delusions, with some of the cases resulting in death.” In Louisiana, one person died and three wound up in intensive care; in New York, over 1,900 Spice-related ER visits [link removed; post no longer exists] took place from April through June; and in Washington, D.C., there were 439 overdoses from Spice just in June.

Also in June, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 15 deaths around the country resulted from Spice between January and May this year. That’s three times the number of deaths from Spice in the same period just a year ago.

Lots of unknowns—except for the risks

What’s behind the surge in Spice-related overdoses and deaths? Like so many things about Spice, it’s hard to say for sure. Some think it’s because more people are using the drug; others speculate that a new, dangerous batch of chemicals is being sprayed on plants sold as Spice.

Whatever the causes, officials are ramping up their attempts to combat the problem. Forty-three states have taken some action to control Spice.  Earlier this month, police chiefs from around the country called for tests to be developed that can help police to know quickly when someone is on Spice.

You can help spread the word about the dangers of Spice. With your help and through public education efforts like K2/Zombie DC, the disturbing statistics could go back down soon.

In the meantime, expect to see more campaigns like K2/Zombie DC in other cities. Let us know in the comments: what do you think of the Zombie campaign?