Synthetic cannabinoids (Spice)

Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made drugs.

They were originally designed to mimic the effects of the active ingredient in cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which gives the feeling of being stoned.

Spice is a nickname for a substance containing one or more synthetic cannabinoids.

They may be powdered chemicals, dissolved and sprayed onto paper or dried plant material. It's becoming more common to find them as liquid, often on paper dipped in the fluid.

Risks of taking Spice

Synthetic cannabinoids are often much stronger and many people describe quite different effects to natural cannabis.

Due to their potency, many people experience unpleasant and unpredictable side effects such as:

  • inability to move
  • breathing difficulties
  • heart palpitations
  • seizures
  • extreme anxiety

Using synthetic cannabinoids with alcohol and other drugs, including prescribed medicines, increases the risks of unwanted and harmful effects.

Withdrawal effects

People who use synthetic cannabinoids regularly over a long time commonly have withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms reported include:

  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • low mood
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • cravings

Inhaling any substance into your lungs is going to cause some level of irritation to the delicate tissue. This includes synthetic cannabinoid products.

Reducing the risks

Start low and go slow. Potency can be hugely variable so start with a very small dose, a match-head size or less.

If using more, increase doses very cautiously and give time, at least an hour, for previous doses to wear off.

Avoid mixing with alcohol and other drugs including prescribed medication as this may increase the risk of heart problems.

Mental wellbeing

As synthetic cannabinoids may make feelings of anxiety or paranoia worse, only use them in an environment in which you feel safe and with people you trust.

Avoid using synthetic cannabinoids if you're prone to anxiety or have existing mental health problems.

Smoking synthetic cannabinoids

If you're smoking synthetic cannabinoids, avoid smoking them neat. Dried herbs can be used as an alternative to tobacco.

Avoid holding smoke in your lungs or breathing in too deeply - take short puffs and be very cautious about smoking in pipes, vapourisers or bongs. They make it harder to regulate intake and it’s easy to take too much.

Water pipes cause you to inhale more deeply which increases lung damage. Avoid sharing joints, vapes, pipes and bongs with others.

Further information

For further information visit Crew or read a briefing on Spice.