Understanding Synthetic Marijuana (Spice, K2, Mojo)

Synthetic Marijuana, also called Spice, K2, or Synthetic Cannabinoids, is a chemically modified herbal substance that produces mind-altering effects similar to or more potent than Marijuana. The chemicals in Synthetic Marijuana are manufactured to be similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the Psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana. Spice is most commonly smoked, though it may be prepared in drinks or edibles. Because of its various harms, responding to Synthetic Marijuana addiction with the proper treatment is crucial.

According to the DEA, most of the chemicals used in Synthetic Marijuana are manufactured in Asia with no regulations or standards. They are then smuggled to the US, where they are sprinkled on plant material and packaged. Some of these chemicals are legal, though there have been more and more illegal compounds found in Synthetic Marijuana. In 2015, the DEA listed 15 variants of Synthetic Marijuana as Schedule I substances, meaning they are in same category of drugs as Crack Cocaine and Heroin. Also, the FDA noted that over 75 other compounds have been identified that are not currently controlled. These chemicals range greatly in safety and are not all recommended for consumption.

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Sold in gas stations, head shops, and online, this drug is often considered a safe and legal alternative to Marijuana despite significant evidence to the contrary. Synthetic Marijuana is marketed as incense or potpourri and labeled as “not for human consumption.” This marketing loophole allows the substance to be sold legally.

The packaging, names, and ingredients of Synthetic Marijuana are inconsistent and vary based on the seller. Because of this, the drug is a moving target for both health officials and police officers hoping to cut down on its negative effects.

Spice and K2 are the most common names for the drug. Other names include:

  • Mojo
  • Genie
  • Cloud 9
  • Yucatan Fire
  • Moon Rocks
  • Skunk
  • Zohai
  • Bliss
  • Blaze
  • Fake Weed

If someone you know or care about is abusing Synthetic Marijuana, get help today.

Synthetic Marijuana Abuse And Effects

Because Synthetic Marijuana is not officially intended to be smoked or ingested, using it in any form is considered abuse.

Many teenagers and young adults are drawn to Synthetic Marijuana because they inaccurately believe it is safer than Marijuana — or that they won’t get in trouble for using it because it can be purchased legally. Synthetic Marijuana doesn’t show up on most drug tests, making the drug an attractive choice for those worried about getting caught.

The effects of Synthetic Marijuana are similar to those of Marijuana. They include an altered perception of reality and feelings of relaxation and elevated mood. The actual ingredients in Synthetic Marijuana are different in every batch; the chemicals used to produce the substance’s effects were originally formulated to be used as anything from fertilizers to cancer treatments. These chemicals have not been approved for human consumption, and there is no way to know what adverse reactions a user may have.

Minor side effects of Synthetic Marijuana are similar to those of real Marijuana. However, there have been many accounts of severe side effects from Synthetic Marijuana — up to and including death.

Side effects of Synthetic Marijuana may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Profuse sweating
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Kidney damage

Side effects may become more severe the more of the substance that is consumed. Additionally, if Synthetic Marijuana is combined with real Marijuana, the 2 substances may interfere with each other and cause an unpleasant and potentially dangerous experience for the user.

[Synthetic Marijuana use] is not an epidemic. But it’s a growing problem. And people need to be thinking about it, and how we’re going to deal with it.

- Rear Admiral Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality

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Signs Of A Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Continued abuse of Synthetic Marijuana can lead to a psychological and physical addiction to it. Synthetic Marijuana’s mind-altering properties are similar to those of Marijuana; although Marijuana is commonly touted as being non-addictive, the clinical definition of addiction proves otherwise. There are 11 signs of addiction outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Someone struggling with a Synthetic Marijuana addiction may want to stop using it but continue anyway, or use it even in dangerous circumstances. Learn more about the criteria for addiction.

Synthetic Marijuana Addiction And Treatment Statistics


most abused

Spice is the second most commonly abused illegal drug (after Marijuana) among high schoolers.


ER visits

In 2010, 11,406 emergency room visits were associated with Synthetic Marijuana use.



Approximately 75 percent of these ER visits were among young people aged 12-29.

The Legality Of K2, Spice

Although the DEA has attempted to regulate the creation and distribution of Synthetic Marijuana, its biggest struggle has been staying ahead of the compounds that make up the drug. Ingredients with names like JWH-018, JWH-073, HU-210, and M-694 have developed nearly as quickly as they can be outlawed. By slightly altering the chemical structure, Synthetic Marijuana distributors have been able to continue selling this dangerous drug.

Treatment For Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

As with any powerful drug, it is possible to become addicted to Synthetic Marijuana. Continuous users may experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop, and studies have shown even users who have bad experiences on the drug keep looking for more. The withdrawal symptoms of Synthetic Marijuana are generally the same as those for Marijuana and include nausea, diarrhea, anxiety, anger, aggression, irritability, insomnia, decreased appetite, and cravings.

Overcoming an addiction to Synthetic Marijuana can be accomplished through targeted behavioral therapies, counseling, and other proven treatments. If you or someone you care about is struggling with Synthetic Marijuana abuse or addiction, contact a treatment provider for more information about treatment options.



Jeffrey Juergens

Photo of Jeffrey Juergens
  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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