Spice: What it is, how it works, and how it came to be outlawed

LOGAN–Jared Green was skeptical about the new drug his friends were discussing. Spice was legal and easily accessible for everyone. One could go to the local smoke shop, spend $20 and get high. For Green (not his real name), who had successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program and had been clean and sober from drugs for two years, it made no sense that a substance causing individuals to experience a marijuana-like high, as his friends described it, would be easily available, especially in Cache County. “I thought that there was no way that it would be strong enough or even make any effect,” Green said. “I thought my friends were making it up so I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever, I don’t care, I’ll just do it. It’s not that I’ll stop being sober if I do this.’ “Turns out it is pretty similar.” What Green and his friends did not know is that spice, a generic name for the synthetic marijuana substitute, had already caught the attention of local authorities. Initially manufactured to be an incense, the substance contains chemicals listed in the same category as heroin and LSD, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration website. Spice was marketed as “not for human consumption.” However, when people starting smoking it, there were very few studies and almost no data about the effects of spice, no federal regulation on spice was in place. “We had people going to emergency rooms with elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath and extreme anxiety,” said Bear River Health Department official Lloyd Berentzen. “We would find out later that they had used spice.” The health department was sure there were no health benefits but only risks, Berentzen said. Doug Thompson, Logan Regional Hospital spokesman, said the hospital emergency room staff saw an average of 40 to 50 cases of spice overdose every month.

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