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NIDA. (2014, September 17). Review summarizes research on health effects of K2/Spice. Retrieved from

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Science Spotlight

September 17, 2014

K2/Spice imageK2, a popular brand of “Spice” mixture
Image courtesy Coolidge Youth Coalition

A new article, authored by scientists from NIDA and the University of Maryland, provides an overview of preclinical and clinical research on synthetic cannabinoids, often sold under brand names such as K2 or Spice. Areas covered by this review include who is using and why; research on brain receptor binding and intensity of drug effects; symptoms reported during emergency room visits; psychiatric effects; withdrawal; effects on driving; and deaths associated with synthetic cannabinoid use.

K2/Spice is sometimes referred to as “synthetic marijuana,” because its cannabinoid compounds act on the same cell receptors as THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. However, its side effects can be quite different and unpredictable. The State of New Hampshire and the City of New York recently issued alerts on recent increases in overdoses and/or emergency department visits related to synthetic cannabinoid use, further highlighting the dangerous public health consequences of these substances.

For a copy of the journal review article (published online August 18), go to: For general information on K2/Spice, go to:

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at or 301-443-6245.