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What is Spice?

Spice is a mix of herbs (shredded plant material) and laboratory-made chemicals that can cause mind-altering effects.

Spice is often called “synthetic marijuana” or “fake weed” because some of the chemicals in it are similar to the ones in marijuana. But, its effects are sometimes very different from marijuana and often much stronger and can cause death. It is often labeled with “not for human consumption” and disguised as incense. People smoke Spice by rolling it in papers like marijuana or tobacco cigarettes, drink it as an herbal tea or consume it as liquid in e-cigarettes.

The Brain and Body

Spice and the Brain

Spice has been around for years, but research is only just beginning to measure how it affects the brain. What is known is that the chemicals found in Spice attach to the same nerve cell receptors as THC. However, some of the chemicals in Spice attach more strongly to those receptors causing stronger, unpredictable, and dangerous effects. Since the chemicals used in Spice are always changing, it is unclear how products sold as Spice are harming the brain.

Spice and the Body

People who use Spice report some effects similar to those produced by marijuana:

  • Relaxation
  • Elevated mood
  • Altered perception

However, not all the effects of spice are relaxing. People who have had bad reactions to Spice report symptoms like:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Throwing up
  • Extreme anxiety or nervousness
  • Intense headaches
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

People who use Spice can experience heart attack, kidney damage, or seizures. In a few cases, using Spice has been linked with heart attacks and death.

We still don’t know all the ways Spice may affect a person’s health or how toxic it may be, but there may be harmful heavy metal residues in Spice mixture.


Because Spice causes the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to go up, it can also lead to heart attack, seizures, and death.

Spice can change the way the brain functions. People who use Spice can develop a substance use disorder (SUD), which means they cannot stop using even if they really want to. If they do, they may have withdrawal symptoms like headaches, anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Get Help

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Are you in immediate danger?

Call 911 or your local police. If not in an immediate threat, please view resources on the Get Care page.