Synthetic Pot Dangers: Side Effects Send Thousands of Teens to ER


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Synthetic pot, also known as Spice. Photo by: Schorle

In 2010, synthetic pot sent 11,406 people (mostly teenagers and young adults to the hospital, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

This report, the first one on synthetic pot, examines the impacts that the drug has on society.

Synthetic pot, also known as herbal incense, showed up in convenience stores and online in 2009, reports USA Today, and has a variety of street names including; K2, Spice, Bliss, Fake Weed, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, Genie, and Zohai.

Fake Pot: Health Effects

Synthetic pot is sold in small silver bags containing leaves and plant material that resembles potpourri.

The synthetic pot is smoked in a pipe or a joint, and can be made into tea.

Similar to marijuana, it can cause the user to experience panic attacks, paranoia, and giddiness.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there have not been any scientific studies conducted on synthetic pot’s effects on the brain; since the chemical composition of Spice is unknown, and it can be made up of a variety of compounds, the drug can cause dramatically different results than what the user may expect.

Those users who have been taken to Poison Control Centers have exhibited the following symptoms: rapid heat rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, increase in blood pressure, and a decrease in blood flow to the heart, which has even resulted in a few heart attacks.

Drug Trends

While Spice isn’t as common as other illegal drugs, the number of users continues to climb, which is a cause for concern. According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, the “Monitoring the Future Study” in 2011 reported that 36.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana and 11.4 percent of seniors used Spice. Not only that, one-third of patients admitted to emergency rooms due to fake pot were ages 12 – 17; the other 35 percent were young adults ages 18 to 24.

Spice: Legal Status

On July 10, 2010 President Obama signed into effect the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, which places synthetic marijuana, bath salts, and other synthetic drugs under Schedule 1 of the Control Substance Act. According to The Partnership at, drug users can easily alter the chemical compounds to make new synthetic drugs that are similar to the banned ones.

Drug Abuse: Expensive but Preventable

Drug abuse is expensive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it cost taxpayers $534 billion in healthcare costs, law enforcement, and other costs annually. We know that drug abuse can be prevented, and that addiction usually begins during the brain’s developmental stages – during adolescence and sometimes even childhood. Preventing exposure to drugs during this time is critical in determining the person’s future outcomes.

Fake Pot: Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

These synthetic drugs can be more potent than the real drug, and the side effects Spice has on your health are still very much unknown. Banning these synthetic drugs can help, but many teens and young adults continue to use them. As it stands, an ounce of prevention, through avoiding drug addiction, will be the most effective way to win the war on drugs.


USA Today. Report: Synthetic pot sends thousands to hospital. December 4, 2012. Accessed December 3, 2012.

Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Fact Sheets: K2 or Spice. Accessed December 4, 2012.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drug Facts: Spice. Accessed December 4, 2012.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drug Abuse Prevention. Accessed December 4, 2012.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). Accessed December 4, 2012.

The Partnership at Drugfree. Federal Law Banning Synthetic Drugs May Not Be Effective Some Experts Say. July 12, 2012. Accessed December 4, 2012.

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