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Is Spice a narcotic?

Yes, many of the ingredients found in Spice are considered Schedule I narcotics.

However, the classification is a disputed matter. Commonly referred to as the safe and legal alternative to marijuana, this herbal blend of synthetic cannabinoids contains compounds similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and can produce a marijuana-like “high”. However, Spice is far from legal. Use of Spice can even get you discharged from military service. While some blends can be purchased in head shops, gas stations, tobaccos and online, others have been banned in recent laws.

While Spice as a whole class of drugs are not yet classified or viewed as a narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Administration, many of its frequently occurring ingredients are designated Schedule I substances. In this article, we explore the use and classification of Spice and its ingredients. Then, we invite you to ask additional questions about how to treat addiction to Spice at the end.

What is a narcotic (medically)?

Medically, narcotics are drugs that are used for treating severe pain when no other medications seem to work. When administrated, narcotics bind to the receptors in the brain that reduce the feeling of pain and slow down the brain activity often resulting in drowsiness and impaired judgment. Commonly known and prescribed medical narcotics include codeine, morphine, or hydrocodone.

What is a narcotic (legally)?

Legally, narcotics are drugs that are controlled by The Controlled Substances Act for having a high potential for abuse and addiction. Narcotics are often times the cause behind sudden overdose deaths. Narcotics can be legally used only under a doctor’s direct supervision, or are classified as having no medical or legal use at all. This is the case for Spice.

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act is part of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, signed into law by President Obama. The law permanently places 26 types of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It also doubled the maximum period of time that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can administratively schedule substances under its emergency scheduling authority, from 18 to 36 months.

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Narcotic medical uses for Spice

While marijuana’s therapeutic benefit has already been established due to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Spice does not have any such potential. Even though the cannabinoids it contains are chemically similar to the THC found in marijuana and produce quite a similar effect, they are synthetic and have no medical benefit whatsoever.

Spice as a narcotic

The most active chemical compounds typically found in Spice have been designated by the Drug Enforcement as Schedule I controlled substances which consequently makes Spice illegal to consume, produce, possess, import and export. These include:

  • 1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl) indole (JWH-018)
  • 1-butyl-3-(1-naphthoyl) indole (JWH-073)
  • 1-[2-(4-morpholinyl)ethyl]-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole (JWH-200)
  • 5-(1,1-dimethylheptyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3-hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol(CP-47,497)
  • 5-(1,1-dimethyloctyl)-2-[(1R,3S)-3- hydroxycyclohexyl]-phenol (cannabicyclohexanol
  • CP-47,497 C8 homologue)

Why is Spice a Schedule I?

Illegal use of Spice puts you at risk of  addiction, overdose, hallucinations, and potential death. Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has designated the active chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it illegal to sell, buy, or possess them. Why the regulation?

Physiological effects of Spice include increase heart rate, blood and pressure. Additionally, acute overdose has been known to provoke hallucinations, paranoia, or panic attacks. Further, manufacturers of the product are not regular and are often unknown. Because it is usually now known what amount of chemical is on the organic material, smoking Spice can be very dangerous and put you at risk of potency levels many times higher than THC.

Is Spice addictive?

Yes, Spice can be addictive.

Case reports describe withdrawal and addiction symptoms associated with the use of Spice similar to those of marijuana, alongside other health consequences such as severe agitation, sympathomimetic toxicity, and even death.

Should Spice classification change?

  1. PROs – Spice manufacturers are opposed to the restrictions and are trying to evade them by substituting chemicals in their products which makes Spice a highly unregulated and easily available drug.
  2. CONs – There are over 140 synthetic cannabinoids that can be used as a substitution in a batch of Spice. Not knowing what’s inside is what makes Spice quite dangerous and its adverse effects even more unpredictable. This is why the DEA is constantly monitoring the situation in order to update the list of controlled substances and thus preserve the illegal status of Spice.

Spice narcotic questions

Do you still have questions about the medical or legal status of Spice as a narcotic? If you have additional questions about the narcotic properties of Spice, please let us know in the comments section below. We try to respond to your questions personally and promptly or refer you to someone who can.

Reference Sources: The White House: Synthetic Drugs
DEA: Drug Info on Spice
NCBI: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow…and Back Again? A Review of Herbal Marijuana Alternatives
NIDA: K2 Spice Marijuana
The U.S. Department of Justice: Hallucinogens K2 and Spice
The U.S. Department of Justice: Drug data sheets on K2 and Spice

Photo credit: DEA

Leave a Reply

2 Responses to “Is Spice a narcotic?
75501
11:30 am January 6th, 2015

How was k2 or spice first invented/discovered and why?

1:29 pm January 12th, 2015

Hi there! That’s one excellent question almost no one ever asks, so I’m glad you did. It was first created during the 1990’s by Dr. Richard Huffman at Clemson University, strictly for research purposes. Later, other companies copied his synthetic marijuana compound and sprayed it onto potpourri leaves, creating the synthetic marijuana that is now widely available as herbal incense. Media research has estimated that Huffman and his staff created 460 different cannabinoids, some of which landed in the hands of chemists who decided to profit from his research. In time, some people figured out how to make JMH-018, JWH-018, JWH-073 and other compounds and are putting them in products marketed as incense.

Why? The purpose of the research started with the fact that cannabis contains substances (other than THC) that interact with our cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are found in other organs, not just the brain and play a role in regulating appetite, nausea, mood, inflammation, pain, etc. and they also may be involved in the development of some medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, some cancers and liver disease. Dr. Huffman created synthetic cannabinoids with the intention to understand their interactions with the receptors in our bodies, and gather knowledge that would contribute to the development of new therapies.

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