Synthetic Drug Popular Among Teens – What Parents Should Know

A relatively new street drug known as Spice (also called Potpourri and other names), remains popular among teens, warn law enforcement and health officials. The effects of this harmful substance, sold in appealing silvery or bright packaging, are very serious and can even lead to death in some cases. We spoke to Deputy Matson of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Community Programs Division/Drug Use is Life Abuse, who shared his expertise on what parents can do if they suspect their child is using this or any other drugs.

Q: What is “Spice” or “Potpourri?”
A: This is a relatively new synthetic drug that gained major popularity in 2009 and 2010 before it was temporarily banned by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) the following year. It has many names that include: Spice, K-2, Fake Weed, Black Mamba, Potpourri, and more. It is made up of dried plant material which is then sprayed with a synthetic chemical compound that produces effects similar to THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets users “high.” Spice is typically smoked, although it can also be made into a tea.

Q: What are the risks involved?
A: This drug is largely produced by unregulated businesses or individuals located outside the U.S., or sometimes in private residences within our borders. The long term effects of Spice on the human body are largely unknown at this time. However, the short term effects of Spice include:

• Altered perceptions
• Harsh cough after smoking
• Hazy feeling afterward (hung over)
• Vomiting
• Increased blood pressure and heart rate
• Reduced blood supply to the heart
• Heart attacks
There are new cases coming to light that link the use of this drug to kidney failure.

Q: How are these cigarettes/drugs being marketed to kids?
A: Spice is easily accessible, and most often found, through the internet or in head shops – retail outlets specializing in drug paraphernalia. The sites that sell Spice often market it as a “safe, natural, and legal” high. The first two claims are easily refuted while the third remains a bit of a gray area. To teens looking for a new drug to experiment with, this can be a very appealing alternative to marijuana.

Q: What steps can parents take if they suspect or find that their child (or his friends) are using Spice?
A: There are several things to look for if you think your child may be abusing Spice. If they have bloodshot eyes with dilated pupils and strange, altered moods this could be a sign of Spice or other drugs. One dead giveaway is the silvery, plastic packaging that the drug is typically sold in. Because Spice is many times obtained online, another thing you can do is check your child’s internet browser history. There are also laboratory tests available to detect Spice. These can range from fifty to eighty dollars.

If you think your child is abusing Spice, or any other drug, don’t ignore it and pretend that it will go away on its own. You know your child best, and the best way to confront them about their drug use. There is a great intervention help page available through the DEA. Please visit:

Q: Where can parents go for more information?  
A: There are many online sources available to parents. Below are just a few:
Parents are encouraged to call Drug Use Is Life Abuse with any further questions 714-647-4593.

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