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Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

K2/Spice: A Fake Drug Carrying a Real Potential for Harm

There is a new drug on the market being used primarily by Indiana youth, and it can currently be bought in stores rather than on the streets. The drug is commonly branded as "K2 or Spice" and is being marketed as incense, though to many, it is simply synthetic marijuana (Malcolm, 2010). To the drug's credit, the labels under which it is sold generally have a warning that states "not for consumption." To the drug's discredit, consumption is the primary way in which it is used. Barbara Carreno, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated, "Everybody knows it's not incense (Malcolm, 2010) and West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski has publicly stated that due to the amount of the product being sold, its sellers must know that the majority of it is being used for consumptive purposes (Voravong, 2010).

The "K2" or "Spice" drug is a mixture of herbs that have been laced with the synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018, or another with similar properties (Bryner, 2010). John W. Huffman and his team at Clemson University, funded by a research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), created the majority of these cannabinoids as tools to aid in understanding the nature of diseases such as AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis and to potentially develop medications for them (Simon, 2010). Before Huffman's research on the compound had ever been published, its structural make-up somehow got out and was found being sold in China and Korea (Bryner, 2010). Huffman has voiced his complete disapproval of this compound being used in humans, comparing human consumption to the game of "Russian roulette," and has expressed his unease with regards to the chemical's toxicity levels, potential short and long term effects on the body, and its possibility of causing osteoporosis, liver disease, and various forms of cancer (Simon, 2010).

The 19th Annual Survey of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents, conducted by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University Bloomington, found that slightly over 55% of high school seniors believe that there is slight to no risk in using marijuana occasionally (Gassman, 2009). These statistics should be of great concern to Indiana residents in light of the recent, unknown threats of this currently legal "fake weed" or "K2/Spice." This year alone, K2/Spice is believed to be responsible for at least three Indiana deaths (MacWilliams, 2010). Currently, Boone County is the only county to have placed a complete ban on the product and a bill in the state legislature for a state-wide banning could be filed as early as January 2011 (Nichols, 2010).


Bryner, J. (2010, March 03). Fake weed, real drug: k2 causing hallucinations in teens. LiveScience.com, Retrieved from  http://www.livescience.com/health/fake-marijuana-k2-hallucinations100303.html

MacWilliams, H. (Producer). (2010). Mother dies after smoking spice. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-spice-death-080410,0,1021879.story

Malcolm, G. (2010, July 10). Synthetic marijuana spurs state bans. New York Times, A17.

Nichols, L. (Producer). (2010). Lafayette, west lafayette latest to consider 'spice' ban. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-lafayette-spice-ban-081810,0,5699301.story

Simon, A. (2010, March 15). Clemson chemist says his work abused to market fake marijuana. The Greenville News

Voravong, S. (2010, August 18). Local officials urging spice ban. Retrieved from http://www.drugfreetippecanoe.org/blog/?p=288


By Sarah Michelle Conley, 8/24/2010