This isn't the stuff you make curries out of. Spice was marketed as a legal alternative to cannabis, but the supposedly herbal smoking mix has since been made illegal. But what actually is spice? And what does it do to you?

Packet of spice

Not to be put in chili-con-carne

What is spice?

Spice is the simple name for a chemical and herbal mixture that mimics the effects of cannabis. It imitates the psychoactive effects of THC – the active ingredient in weed that gets you stoned. Spice usually contains synthetic cannabinoids, such as JWH-018, which can be five times stronger than regular cannabis. These cannabinoids are usually sprayed onto a mix of plant ingredients to produce a smoking mixture.

Much as we would like to, The Mix can’t tell you exactly what’s in herbal smoking mixes like spice because their ingredients are regularly changed in an attempt to dodge new regulation laws. But typically they are packaged in small colourful sachets claiming to be incense or herbal smoking mixture.

How do you take spice?

Most people smoke it in a joint or pipe, but you can also drink it as a herbal tea.

Why do people take spice?

If spice DOES contain synthetic cannabinoids, users can experience:

  • A relaxed chilled-out feeling, with some users reporting a rush of euphoria
  • Uncontrollable, unprovoked giggling and a desire to talk to others
  • Difficulty concentrating and problems with simple coordination skills
  • Increased appetite and hunger pangs

What are the bad side effects of taking spice?

  • Experts believe synthetic cannabinoids can produce harmful effects similar to those in cannabis, such as paranoia, panic attacks, and memory loss
  • Users can experience a raised pulse rate, dry mouth, and dizziness which could lead to accidents
  • There is no way of knowing what is in spice, or how strong the batch you buy will be. So every time you take it you are playing guinea pig, and have no idea what effect it will have on your body and mind
  • Regular use could increase the risk of developing psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia
  • Withdrawal can induce strong cravings for spice, mood swings, weight loss, insomnia, getting the shakes and diarrhoea

How can I reduce the risks if I take spice?

  • Don’t take spice if you have a history of mental illness. Anyone with mental health issues usually find using psychoactive drugs make their problems worse.
  • Don’t trust the labelling of a supposed ‘legal’ version of spice. Be aware that you don’t know what is in your packet without forensic testing. It may still contain illegal synthetic cannabinoids, and if you are caught with it you could be facing a hefty jail sentence.

What happens if I get caught with spice?

Products containing synthetic cannabinoids are classified as a Class B drug, so the maximum sentence is five years and a fine for possession. For more information about what to do if you’re caught with drugs, see our article here.

Next Steps

  • FRANK offers friendly, confidential advice on all things drugs-related. Call now on 0300 123 6600
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


drugs a-z


Updated on 29-Sep-2015