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 is 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 with other 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

Reducing the risk from synthetic cannabinoids begins with basic hygiene and cleanliness.

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing or handling any drugs, packaging, papers, filters or tobacco.

Make sure any pipes, bongs, vapes and grinders are cleaned very regularly, paying particular attention to mouth pieces.

Wipe down any baggies or other synthetic cannabinoid packaging with alcohol wipes or anti-bacterial spray and a clean cloth as soon as possible after buying.

If you decide to use synthetic cannabinoids

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 exacerbate anxiety and paranoia, only use in an environment in which you feel safe and with people you trust.

Avoid using if prone to anxiety or have existing mental health problems.

Smoking synthetic cannabinoids

If smoking synthetic cannabinoids avoid smoking neat. Using dried herbs is 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 increase lung damage. Avoid sharing joints, vapes, pipes and bongs with others.

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