What is Spice?
A synthetic cannabinoid – a group of drugs that makers claim artificially imitate weed, but those who’ve used Spice often say that the effects are nothing like cannabis at all. Spice tends to produce a longer, harsher and far more addictive high – and the side effects tend to be much, much more serious.
Is it legal?
Nope. Spice is classed as a New Psychoactive Substance (NPS), which have been banned under law since May this year. These are also known as ‘legal highs’ – although they’re no longer legal. NPSs include a wide number of different substances, not just the synthetic cannabinoids.
Before that, Spice was openly sold in ‘Head Shops’ that sprang up across the UK, offering NPSs for legal sale (although even then they were marked as not for human consumption). The new ban targets these shops.
Although the legal change in May sends a message about the dangers of Spice and other NPSs, some groups have raised concerns it’s really just pushed the problem underground, making it even harder to make head or tail of what’s going on with them.
So what’s been happening with Spice?
A lot – and it’s all pretty worrying.
Huck Magazine wrote about this recently. Their article gives a pretty clear look at why people become addicted to Spice, and what the effects are. They spoke to Chris, 23, who first started smoking Spice when he was homeless.
“Nearly all the homeless people I know were smoking,” Chris told Huck. “I would do anything to get it. Some people would go into town and steal things to give directly to their Spice dealer.”
The effects of Spice that Chris experienced were severe. “I realised I had psychosis not long after I started smoking Spice,” he said. “Sometimes I would hear voices. That’s the reason I got sectioned for the first time: I heard voices and I went to jump off Victoria car park building. I don’t know why I did it; it wasn’t me.”
Back in September, Volteface wrote about the effects of Spice seen on the streets of London. They included the results of an ITV poll, showing that 1 in 5 homeless people in the borough of Westminster have taken Spice at some point in their lives. Some have blamed the increase on Spice usage for a rise in the amount of antisocial behaviour seen in London.
Volteface also explain that some dealers have been spraying Spice and similar substances onto plant matter to make it more closely resemble weed.
Closer to home, there’ve been worries about the smuggling of NPSs into Cardiff prison. A 2015 report explained that NPSs were likely responsible for ‘horrific self-afflicted injuries’ among prisoners, resulting from drug usage.
Until recently, NPSs were sold at a number of alternative shops in Cardiff, so it’s likely that the problems will be more widespread – but, as ever, it can be a difficult problem to gauge. People don’t always disclose their experiences, and the ever-evolving nature of NPSs make them difficult to track.
So what if I’m offered Spice, Black Mamba, Cherry Bomb, or something like them?
Just don’t. NPSs still aren’t widely understood, and it’s often very unclear what’s actually in them. Two things with the same name can have completely different ingredients.
Part of the big problem is that it’s not always clear what the side effects can be, and NPSs are often more damaging, and more addictive, than other better-known drugs. It also means that if you’ve taken an NPS, and something goes wrong, chances are it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to know what to do, because they won’t really know what’s gone into your body.