How long does Spice stay in your system?

How long Spice stays in your system depends on the synthetic cannabinoids that are in the Spice mixture. Effects may last for days to weeks, and Spice compounds JWH-018 and JWH-073 can be detected in urine for up to 72 hours after use. More on Spice in the system here.

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We don’t really know.

How long Spice stays in your system depends on which synthetic cannabinoids are in the Spice mixture. New tests can detect synthetic marijuana Spice ingredients for up to 3 days after use. But we really do not know a lot about how Spice works and stays in the body. More on synthetic cannabis addiction, available treatment options, what’s the rehab process like, and ongoing recovery care in our detailed GUIDE on Spice and K2 Treatment Programs & Help.

Here, we review common synthetic cannabinoids which are used in Spice, and their pharmacokinetic properties. We invite your questions, comments and feedback at the end.

What’s in Spice?

It is not easy to determine exactly what is in Spice products. However, Spice is the generic name for plant material laced with synthetic cannabinoids. There are currently over 140 synthetic cannabinoids on the market and Spice is an unregulated mixture of any of these 100 different compounds.

The most commonly found and used form of “Spice” is a compound called JWH-018, which was developed only in 1995. Other common synthetic cannabinoids found in Spice include:

  • CP 47497
  • JWH-018
  • JWH-073
  • HU-210

How do you take Spice? and what is Spice used for?

There is no approved medical use for Spice in the U.S. People take Spice recreationally for euphoric effect, most often smoked with tobacco in cigarettes or alone in pipes.  But before you rush out to buy some, you should know that side effects of  Spice have been reported to include psychotic episodes and unpleasant experiences.  And soon Spice will be regulated federally.

How does Spice work?

Spice effects begin 5-10 min after smoking its compounds and can result in anxiety, intense paranoia and even hallucinations. But how does Spice work in the body and the brain?

Synthetic cannabinoids are functionally similar to (although structurally distinct from) delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive principle of cannabis. So the ingredients in Spice work by binding tocannabinoid receptors in the brain and peripheral organs, resulting in clinical symptoms both typical and atypical of marijuana use.

Peak levels and half life of JWH

Cannabinoids found in Spice are pharmacologically similar to THC and mimic its effects …but are many to ten times more potent than THC. When inhaled, Spice products are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. Peak levels of synthetic cannabinoids are achieved relatively quickly, within 10-45 minutes.

Duration of effect varies by type of cannabinoid in a Spice mixture. However, both half life and duration of effect of synthetic cannabinoids tend to be longer than THC. The half life of compounds found in Spice is somewhat longer than THC (3-4 days), which is what causes increased duration of effects in users. But the half life of the drugs vary by type of cannabinoids, user, dosage and frequency of use.

Spice drug testing

Currently, standard drug tests for cannabis do not detect Spice in the body. In fact, most synthetic cannabinoids added as not-listed ingredients to Spice products are very difficult to detect by commonly used drug screening procedures. Why not?

Apart from the analogs of THC such as HU-210, the structure of synthetic cannabinoids differs from that of THC, so that they probably will not trigger a positive test for cannabinoids in immunoassays of body fluids. And although new drug tests have been developed to identify particular synthetic cannabinoid compounds in the urine, these tests are relatively expensive and are not used regularly by legal or private systems. The most common sythetic cannabinoids are also more invasive to detect – they require a blood sample that targets bi-product of the drugs after they are metabolized in the body.

How long does Spice stay in the body?

At present, we do not know how long Spice stays in the body. Much more research is needed regarding the metabolism and toxicology of synthetic cannabinoids. Why? Well, Spice is a very new drug. The synthetic cannabinoids that make up Spice have only been around for a couple of decardes. This is why little to no studies on Spice and its metabolism in the body have been completed.

However, you should know that the effects of spice have been reported to last for days to weeks. Detectable levels of Spice in the body also vary by use, but can be within 24 hours after use. And new urine tests for JWH-018 and JWH-073 have a testing window of up to 72 hours for both of these compounds.

Problems with Spice?

Spice smokers are exposed to drugs that are extremely variable in composition and potency, and are at risk of serious, if not lethal, outcomes. Not knowing what’s in Spice makes potential overdose more likely. If you have questions about using Spice or want to discuss its effects, please let us know. We will be happy to respond to your questions personally and promptly and help you as best as we can.

Reference sources:  Traffic Safety Resource information on Spice
Beyond THC: The New Generation of Cannabinoid Designer Drugs
Phase I Hydroxylated Metabolites of the K2 Synthetic Cannabinoid JWH-018 Retain In Vitro and In Vivo Cannabinoid 1 Receptor Affinity and Activity
Nevada Board of Pharmacy regulation review for synthetic cannabinoids
Synthetic cannabinoids in oral fluid
State of Utah legislative report on Spice





About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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