Spice, also known as K2, black mamba, or crazy clown, is a lab-produced, mind-altering drug that’s soared in popularity in recent years.
The CDC announced on June 11 that as of May 2015, US poison centres received more than 3,500 calls related to use of the drug, up nearly 229% from a year ago.
While marketed as a “safer alternative” to marijuana, spice is dangerous and can be deadly.
Reports suggest that since 2009, drugs like spice, or synthetic marijuana, have killed roughly 1,000 Americans -- many of them young people in high school.
The drugmakers change up the specific ingredients in the drugs so fast -- and produce them in such massive quantities -- that drug enforcement can't keep up.
The drugs are created in powdered form in giant underground laboratories like this one. Many of the labs are in China.
Last month, the DEA arrested a man who allegedly ran a lab that likely produced the chemicals in some 70% of the spice sold in the US, the New York Times reported.
Wholesale buyers purchase the drugs and turn them into liquids by dissolving them in acetone or alcohol.
So far this year, US poison centres received 3,572 calls related to synthetic cannabinoid use, according to the CDC.
In the same period, 15 spice-linked deaths were reported, a three-fold increase over the 5 deaths reported in 2014.
Many experts say 'synthetic marijuana' is a huge misnomer for these drugs, since they produce far different effects and can be up to 100 times more potent than traditional marijuana.
For example, the first form of the psychoactive ingredient used in spice was called JWH-018, named for the initials of the scientist John W. Huffman who first invented it in 2008.
Just like with the main psychoactive ingredient in traditional marijuana, THC, the psychoactive ingredients in synthetic marijuana bind to the brain's CB1 receptors. Because spice is so much stronger, however, it is much more likely to cause everything from seizures to psychosis.
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