Know the facts and connect with support to help you address known or suspected substance use with your child.

    K2 or Spice is a mixture of herbs, spices or shredded plant material that is typically sprayed with synthetic compounds known as cannabinoids that are chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Although these products are often marketed as “safe” alternatives to marijuana, they may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana. Their effects can be unpredictable and severe.[1]

    Also known as fake weed and spice, among other slang terms, K2 is a mixture of herbs, spices or shredded plant material that is typically sprayed with synthetic compounds known as cannabinoids that are chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Although these products are often marketed as “safe” alternatives to marijuana, they may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana. Their effects can be unpredictable and severe.[1]

    K2 is typically sold in small, silvery plastic bags of dried leaves and marketed as incense that can be smoked. It resembles potpourri. It is usually smoked in joints or pipes. K2 products are also sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense).[2]

    People using synthetic cannabinoids report some effects similar to those produced by marijuana, such as elevated mood, relaxation and altered perception. Some young people incorrectly assume that these products are “natural” and therefore harmless.

    Understand the risks

    Short-term effects include increased agitation, pale skin, seizures, vomiting, profuse sweating, uncontrolled/spastic body movements, elevated blood pressure, heart rate and palpitations. Synthetic cannabinoids begin having an effect within three to five minutes, and the duration of the high is one to eight hours. Synthetic cannabinoids can also cause difficulty speaking, severe paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. The long-term effects are unknown.[2]

    Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have taken steps to ban many of these substances at the Federal level. Many states have also taken action to control synthetic drugs, including synthetic cannabinoids.

    Identify & address use

    Signs of use include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, seizures, vomiting, profuse sweating, sever paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. If you’re concerned your child may be using K2 or other substances, the following can help you address the behavior more effectively.

    Spot the Signs of Teen or Young Adult Substance Use

    A few simple tips and guidelines can go a long way toward spotting issues with drug use earlier rather than later.
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    How Worried Should I Be About My Child’s Drug Use?

    So your kid has been using drugs or drinking. Is this just what kids do? Is it going to become a problem? Don’t leave the answers to chance.
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    What Do I Do if My Child is Using Drugs?

    It can be scary if your child is using drugs or alcohol, and it's important to confront it. We're here to give you tips and strategies on how to do it.

    Last Updated

    June 2020

    [1]NIDA. “Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5 Feb. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice. Accessed 1 Nov. 2018.
    [2]NIDA. “Synthetic Cannabinoids.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts#synthetic-cannabinoids. Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.

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