Scientific law enforcement communities began studying spice drugs in 2008, and their findings were alarming. According to a paper by Dresen, Ferreirós, Pütz, Westphal, Zimerman and Auwäter, the identification of O-desmethyl tramadol (a synthetic opioid) in a herbal mixture proves that the concept of selling natural products spiked with dangerous synthetics is a continuous trend to obtain a ‘’legal high”. Thus, it is pretty important to know the ingredients of the Spice drug.
Analyzing Spice Drug Ingredients
Spice drug ingredients include so much more than a mixture of herbs, despite it being labeled as ‘’all natural’’ on the packets and websites on which Spice is being sold.
The synthetic cannabinoids are similar to the natural cannabinoid you will find in marijuana (Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short), but the effects it has on the human brain receptors, are way different. It latches onto the same receptors as THC does, can be up to a hundred times stronger and can operate on other brain receptors as well.
In the report called ‘’Spice: Synthetic Cannabinoid Intoxication” by Schneir, Cullen, and Ly, it is stated that the synthetics identified in these products included ingredients synthesized at Hebrew University in the 60’s. There was also a cyclohexyl phenol series that Pfizer synthesized in the 70’s, and some ingredients synthesized in the 80’s by J. W. Huffman, after which JWH is named.
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It was concluded that Spice might contain one of many types of synthetic cannabinoids, including:
- JWH-018 (Especially used in the early days of Spice. Extremely dangerous, labeled as a toxic poison.)
Spice doesn’t make use of only one ingredient and is also not sold as a single brand, meaning that there are many different manufacturers all using the same basic approach, but producing very different chemicals.
Roger Ely, a chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration, explained that ingredients such as acetone, alcohol, hydrochloric acid, and ammonia are commonly used in producing Spice. It seems like it could be harmless, but Ely added that it is the concentration of these chemicals that are more dangerous than the chemicals themselves. Another problem is the fact that the conditions under which Spice are made, are often unhygienic.
The chemicals are mixed and sprayed onto leaves and herbs, so the user never knows how much of each of the Spice drug ingredients are in their newly bought packet.
Changing Spice Drugs Ingredients
In the end, no one can say for sure what chemicals goes into Spice since the manufacturers tend to stay one step ahead in adding and tweaking the ingredients. If a certain chemical is figured out and officials declare it as illegal, these manufacturers simply start using different chemicals to produce Spice. They continue to develop new varieties of chemicals as a loophole to get around new laws against certain chemicals.
Because the DEA is required to publish their drug research in the Federal Register, manufacturers usually know between 45 and 90 days ahead of time, which chemical is going to be next to be controlled, as the Federal Register is available for public viewing. The chemical they use is then simply replaced with a substance not being controlled.
Picking Up Spice Drugs Ingredients
It is tough to pick up Spice use, as Spice drug ingredients change at a rapid pace. Conducting fifty-seven different drug tests to test for a specific chemical on each test, just won’t work.
It also happens that users seem intoxicated, which is why a test for alcohol would rather be conducted over a drug test.
Ingredients for Making Spice at Home
Many Spice users resort to making their Spice drugs at home, experimenting with many different ingredients. There is no standard for the strength of the end product, as Spice is a very experimental drug, even for manufacturers.
Homemade Spice drug ingredients can include:
- Acetone – a solvent primarily found in nail polish remover, which is responsible for the distinct smell. It can also be replaced with ethanol or rubbing alcohol. The acetone evaporates faster as it contains no water.
- Tobacco – or herbs. This is what the manufacturer uses to blend the JWH and acetone with, so it can be smoked.
- Mullein (Verbascum sinautum)
- Marshmallow leaves (Althaea Officinalis)
- Damiana (Turnera Diffusa)
- Wild Opium (Lacuta virosa)
- Wild Marijuana (Leonotis Leonurus)
- Skullcap (Scutellaria)
- Spearmint (Mentha, Arvensis, Pipertia)
- Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla)
- Dream Herb (Calea Zacatechichi)
- Menthol – either menthol crystals or mint leaves to give off a better taste and smell.
A strong blend may typically contain 14mg JWH per gram of tobacco, with a mild blend consisting of 10mg of JWH per one gram of tobacco. Spice drug ingredients for light and very light blends may include 5 mg or 2 mg of JWH per gram of tobacco respectively.
The Main Ingredient: JWH
Different variations of JWH will often be found in Spice. It works by causing profound changes in CB1 receptor density, causing desensitization. It is possible to become addicted to this Spice drug ingredient, and withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of a marijuana dependence.
The difference is that THC, found in marijuana, is a partial agonist at CB1 receptors, where JWH and other Spice drug ingredients are full agonists.
The Bottom Line
It is close to impossible to derive an exact definition for the Spice, mainly because Spice drug ingredients change all the time. It is a cat and mouse game between the Feds and the manufacturers, who keep on changing the ingredients as those they use become controlled.