"He Who Controls the Spice Controls the Universe"
August 8, 2015 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Use of K2/Spice continues to rise, despite public health officials in many parts of America declaring it a national health crisis. But let's take a look back. Like many in the American military where its use remains twice as popular as marijuana, some early users may have thought that K2/Spice (or "synthetic marijuana") was a safer, more responsible alternative to weed for managing their substance abuse problems and for self-medicating anxiety disorders. After all, until recently, it was still sold legally throughout the country, and convenience stores everywhere sold the stuff.

But despite being legal and cheaper by the gram, for many, buying Spice turned out be a much worse bargain than buying weed--more physically addictive than weed, more likely to do short and long-term damage to the body and mind. Some users have even claimed it's more addictive than crack. It's not always clear what's even being sold as Spice: Anybody with a few thousand bucks can get their own custom synthetic produced and shipped to them from any number of Chinese labs serving the market via the internet without traveling beyond their own bedrooms. Spice's reach now extends to every region in the country and beyond, recently being blamed for a string of suicides in Alabama, and "120 emergency cases in a single week in April" in New York City.
posted by saulgoodman (78 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
(Full disclosure: I personally am a former Spice addict who's been off the drug and in recovery for the last three years.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:33 AM on August 8, 2015 [49 favorites]

I knew a few people who were buying this stuff for a while. Who could have guessed that a bunch of weird shit cooked up in a lab somewhere would be worse for you than a plant?
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:41 AM on August 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


I tried it once or twice but the high didn't really do much for me compared to pot and I wasn't comfortable with not knowing what the hell I was really smoking. Just legalize weed already!

Congrats on working on recovery SGM, keep it up.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:41 AM on August 8, 2015 [14 favorites]

Who could have guessed that a bunch of weird shit cooked up in a lab somewhere would be worse for you than a plant?

Very true, Socrates! I heard the NPR piece from the link about this on the radio last night, and that seemed to be a giant red flag - god knows what you're smoking, maybe embalming fluid.
posted by thelonius at 10:46 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

If only there were some sort of safe, natural version of synthetic marijuana; surely the government would be doing whatever they could to get people access to it.
posted by threeants at 10:50 AM on August 8, 2015 [44 favorites]

a bunch of friends tried to get me into k2 because of the legal dangers of weed but i've always been wary. yet another great reason for the full legalization of marijuana.
posted by nadawi at 10:59 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah - I'm not necessarily opposed to new RC's (Recreational Chemicals). But it seems like with the rise of JWH-18/synthetic cannabinoids & mephedrone (4MMC)/"bath salts"... there's some serious problems with drug culture these days.

And what really pisses me off is that the drug hysteria of the 50s/60s blew shit so out of proportion that when there IS legitimate cause for concern so many people now write it off. I still take anti-drug freakouts with a heavy grain of salt, but I will admit when chemicals are problematic, but the damage is done by all the lying bullshit "The Man" has done through the years.

There will always be addiction and problematic substances, and there will be people who need help, but the puritanical mode of operation we have for drug use in the states does more harm than a solid rational and truth-in-education approach.

We need honesty, not hysteria.
posted by symbioid at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2015 [28 favorites]

[X] designer recreational drugs
[X] re-emerging Soviet empire
[X] digital currency based on mathematics
[X] non-state actors holed up in an embassy somewhere for publishing leaks
[X] cheap nutritionally complete drink mix with all the flavor homemade Play-doh
[ ] flying cars
[ ] human expoloration of mars
[ ] nuclear powered pit bull terriers

Strange which items reality opts to check off the sci-fi plot list and what it doesn't...
posted by pwnguin at 11:06 AM on August 8, 2015 [49 favorites]

I blame the 80s/90s more than the 50s/60s. Mass use of LSD by young people is kind of something worth being a little concerned about. That is a drug that can make you do crazy things. (It is also awesome and I highly recommend using it in a safe situation at least once in your life if you can find it.) But without taking some safety precautions it can really be bad news.

The 80s/90s hysteria gave us Pee-Wee Herman lecturing kids with a crack vial in his hands. That was a time when the insanity was coming from the anti-drug people, not the people on drugs.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:08 AM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Synthetic drugs include both synthetic marijuana, often sold under the names K2 and Spice or as potpourri or herbal incense, and synthetic cathinones, typically sold as bath salts or jewelry cleaner. They are labeled “not for human consumption” to evade U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight but are smoked or ingested by users to get high.
So, if I want to get semi-legally high, I'm supposed to go to a store and ask for "jewely cleaner" (wink, nod.) and go smoke it somewhere, trusting that the moron at the store didn't just poison me with real jewelry cleaner?
posted by double block and bleed at 11:12 AM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Wait, I know--let's make it illegal. That'll take care of the problem.

As far as I know, the only way to control drug use is to make it culturally inappropriate. That starts in the home, with honest communication with your kids. Don't Do Drugs, kids.

This discussion has stirred me up. I need to smoke a cigarette and have a shot of JD back to settle my nerves.
posted by mule98J at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2015 [9 favorites]

I blame 1930s Reefer Madness - it's not as if it's not a long line of continuation.

Thing is - some drugs ARE more dangerous than others. I don't disagree that how we handled psychedelics in the 60s wasn't the best. But let's admit to ourselves that the anti-drug crusaders have a long history all the way back to racist propaganda against opium and marijuana, to LSD hysteria and then the Crack epidemic in the 80s along with anti-MDMA propaganda.
posted by symbioid at 11:18 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Treatment options for people suffering through any kind of problematic substance abuse issues are really inadequate and the various social stigmas don't improve the situation at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:28 AM on August 8, 2015 [16 favorites]

I think we're starting to see the back lash- and it's coming in waves. It's not just the decriminalization of marijunana either. Though that's happening so fast that I'm losing track. I had no idea that Illinois legalized medical marijunana. Even in Milwaukee, we're on the verge of decriminalizing weed ( though that may be as a fuck you to the rest of Walkerstan). I had no idea except dumb luck of being in a neighborhood facebook group.

And then we have doctors looking at psilocybin for treatment resistant depression. Maybe we can have smart laws based on science and hard data, and not scare tactics. I'm generally anti-prohibition anything and believe we'd do much better with honest studies about the benefits and downsides of various drugs.

And I think the net benefit would be fewer drugs like spice because we wouldn't need or want them. There wouldn't be this constant cat and mouse over legal substances. If they did, then they'd have to go through some sort of testing process. But I also think supplements should be handled that was and aren't now, so....
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:37 AM on August 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

When I was living in rural PA, this stuff was much easier to get than weed, so my partner and I smoked it fairly regularly as a substitute. Sometimes the high would be like a really good bowl, a nice mellow buzz for like 30 minutes. Other times there were hallucinogenic effects -- bubbling on the edges of my perception, light fractal patterns. Sometimes I would get extremely happy, other times I'd have crippling experiences of existential despair. I remember once getting so paranoid that I was wondering around my house looking for intruders with a samurai sword. My partner and I were struggling in many ways at the time, and I know that the drug use contributed to the volatility and eventual break-up of our marriage. We would get high on the stuff and either have a great time and screw our brains out, or more often than not find something tiny to obsess and fight over, having screaming matches with each other. Our nerves were totally jangled. I remember finally realizing, "Hey man, you're starting to lose control over your life with this stuff. You're starting to become a junkie." I forced myself to flush what I had left down the toilet. Nasty, nasty stuff.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:41 AM on August 8, 2015 [23 favorites]

I worry about the loop between bored teenagers and far-Eastern pharmaceutical supply chains becoming shorter. Soon it will be days. Eventually hours.
posted by mrdaneri at 11:42 AM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

blaming drug culture instead of the people in charge who have purposefully lied and kept less harmful drugs illegal seems misguided. when d.a.r.e. says that marijuana is as harmful as heroin, when marijuana is used to excuse the murder of young black people by cops, when studies into marijuana aren't allowed, when decriminalization is stalled, when recovery services are blocked or gutted - of course people are uneducated. we've been forced to get our information from shady sources since the official sources are obviously full of lies.

when i think of how close i came to k2, meth, and a bunch of other fucked up shit, i get angry and thankful in equal measures. and i didn't get out unharmed - if i didn't have to buy weed from a drug dealer, i likely would have never fallen too deep into xanax for about a year (and speaking of xanax, lets not let the legal and socially acceptable synthetic pushers off the hook here).
posted by nadawi at 11:49 AM on August 8, 2015 [35 favorites]

just a bump for the xanax thing. I had an MD who used to give out 120 x 4mg at a time. That was what I like to call my missing year, my missing fiance.
posted by mrdaneri at 11:55 AM on August 8, 2015 [16 favorites]

The big problem is that this has started a game of whac-a-mole between the labs and the DEA as they keep moving atoms around in the molecular structure to keep new products legal while trying to preserve the psychoactivity. Of course these tweaks don't necessarily have no effect; they can alter the effective dosage or introduce other psychoactive effects. The whole thing is crazy.
posted by Bringer Tom at 12:10 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

RC's (Recreational Chemicals)

*Research chemical.
posted by Taft at 12:33 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

And I think the net benefit would be fewer drugs like spice because we wouldn't need or want them.

A lot of the appeal seems to be that it is about $2/gram, and I don't think that the price of marijuana has fallen anywhere near that much (if at all) where it has been legalized.
posted by thelonius at 12:33 PM on August 8, 2015

So here's my Erowid vault experience with Spice:

I ordered the smallest amount shippable from whatever random online store and got a bag of off-white powder in the mail. Being a moron, I just added a dash of it to some mac-n-cheese without trying to measure a dose. I could feel something from the first bite, and within a few bites was feeling sick. I was waaaaayyyyy too high and went from long intense online conversations about Qaddafi's personal bodyguard squad of virgin amazons*, to open-eye hallucinations and uncontrollable drooling and laughing, to possibly something approximating a petit mal seizure. I was alone at the time so I basically just went through it and recovered. BEING A MORON I tried a little bit of the mac-n-cheese again the next day and just threw up immediately. Would not be surprised at all if I and many other morons out there have brain damage from this stuff.

To this day Kraft makes me hurl. That may be the real tragedy here.

*this was absolutely a real thing look it up
posted by 3urypteris at 12:38 PM on August 8, 2015 [12 favorites]

Some synthetic cannabinoids are active at doses in the low microgram range. That isn't the kind of thing you want to try to dose by soaking plant material in a solution of it, just so it can look like a drug that it isn't and be consumed in the same way even though the compounds are pyrolised more easily and produce unknown, but likely active oxidation products when smoked.

So it's not easy to distinguish between the harmfulness of these substances and the harm associated with unintended overdose due to uneven absorption or poor quality control and harmful side effects of potentially dangerous pyrolysis products produced only under specific but unknown conditions. And this is combined with under-informed users deciding to leap in by taking a massive hit, failing to understand that dose/response curves are curved or thinking that a pinch is a measure that allows for any kind of consistency.

When treated like the extremely potent drugs that they are instead of legal alternatives to cannabis, many are probably far safer than the current statistics suggest.
posted by xchmp at 12:41 PM on August 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

I third the Xanax derail. (I tried Spice once and didn't feel a thing. But the chemicals in today's faux-pot are surely entirely different ones.)

A psychiatrist once told me that Xanax was not addictive. It was at a big family dinner so I didn't say anything. I think she said that she prescribed it to her own children, but, I could have misremembered this. I was hooked on the stuff at the time. It wasn't easy getting off benzos. The withdrawals from prescription drugs (opiates, benzos etc.) are terrible. Marijuana, even cocaine: no serious withdrawals, for most people I know. And then there's alcohol...on every corner. We all know what that drug does, unfortunately.
posted by kozad at 12:47 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

No, they started me on them in 1997, specifically and in all good faith because they were specifically designed to not be addictive. And my right incisor is missing because of a seizure I had in Maricopa county, in 1998, during detox, etc, due to such far-sighted-design-decisions-etc.
posted by mrdaneri at 12:52 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

i do want to say that i obviously support responsible use of xanax. i know many people who have been helped. but yeah, it's really easy to fuck that up, at least it was for me.
posted by nadawi at 12:57 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

and i obviously support computer aided drug design. binding-site-theory is subtle.
posted by mrdaneri at 12:59 PM on August 8, 2015

Well, so far this weekend I've personally reaffirmed the important lesson that you don't need drugs if you're spraypainting items in an unventilated basement.

The More You Know™
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:07 PM on August 8, 2015 [10 favorites]

Xanax was a godsend for me.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:11 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

George_Spiggott, did you have a shiny and chrome experience, all full of glory this weekend?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:11 PM on August 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

The DEA always gets the drug war it deserves.
posted by Fupped Duck at 1:21 PM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

Who could have guessed that a bunch of weird shit cooked up in a lab somewhere would be worse for you than a plant?

This is an attractive position but there are plenty of plants that will fuck your shit up as fast as many synthetics. Look up datura experiences if you want to see just what a plant can do if you smoke the wrong one.

Datura is a fun example too because it's just this side of actually-just-poison. It's like nature's PCP!

That being said, research chemicals aren't something to fuck around with. Wish they'd just legalize the psychedelics so that people would stop inventing deadly analogues to skirt the law.
posted by unknownmosquito at 1:30 PM on August 8, 2015 [14 favorites]

Let's face it, if you want to get so spaced out that you lose grasp of reality, there is still salvia. It will completely make you go away and in small doses with a sitter, it's safe.
posted by Splunge at 2:09 PM on August 8, 2015

it had literally never occurred to me to condense the space between sativa and safe, as you have done, Splunge.
posted by mrdaneri at 2:16 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Salvia is not still legal everywhere. I remember when Florida banned it some years back, all my teenage friends made a run on the head shops to try and stock up before the law took effect. That summer I saw some really weird, uncomfortable parties.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 2:16 PM on August 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

As an adventurous and curious person in these realms around the time I felt the local spice market was maturing I experimented with several of the offerings -- some of the "Spice" branded varieties and of a locally mixed variety produced by the shop owner who had imported the raw JWH series chemicals from China and told me a lot on his theory of which JWHs to mix in what proportions (it sounded like bullshit).

I did not particularly care for these drugs as they made me tremendously anxious and seemed to induce an odd body heating/cooling issue. Only dimly reminiscent of the enjoyable aspects of a cannabis high, in my opinion.

As the bans began rolling in on the first-generation indole cannabinoid drugs predictably, we saw a transition to other marginally studied full cannabinoid agonists. I didn't experiment with the further series post JWH series stuff but it seems like there've been some further iterations in AM2201, AB-FUBINACA and AB-PINACA. (as an aside: I was slightly surprised and disturbed to see AB-FUBINACA submitted as "molly" to ecstacydata in recent days.)

It's interesting that all these drugs seem to be stronger agonists than the naturally occurring family of cannabis compounds and seem to have a more pronounced withdrawal syndrome.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 2:47 PM on August 8, 2015

The effects for me were pretty awful. A very short, intense euphoric high, that quickly tapered off into a dull, uncomfortable stupor. But the effect was to make me want to hit it again almost immediately, to get the euphoric feeling back. I knew it was dumb to risk using unknown chemicals, but the legality of the stuff made it seem like a better choice than weed, and I thought I needed weed to manage insomnia and anxiety. Turns out, in my case, I was wrong about that, too. I'm doing much better now without any substances. The substances, in my case, were the problem.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:11 PM on August 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

About a year ago, I was walking down Hollywood near Highland with my wife and another MeFite, and this old guy in shalwar kameez catches my eye and tries to beckon me into his shop's dark doorway by saying, "Mushrooms, salvia… spice?" and I felt like the Kwisatz Haderach.
posted by klangklangston at 3:26 PM on August 8, 2015 [17 favorites]

I could tell a really looong story but I'll do a short one (if for no other reason than I've got to run in a minute). I tried Spice in around the year 2012, when it was first making an appearance. Where I live the penalty for getting caught with cannabis is harsh to say the least, so a legal facsimile didn't seem like the worst idea. And it worked, sort of. I got a head change that was about 60% as potent as the real thing, and it wore off completely after a few hours. Though the latter characteristic I didn't see as a negative. All in all I was sort of pleasantly surprised at its efficacy, but it wasn't really that great, and I didn't think much of it after that.

Fast forward a few years later. On yet another whim, I bought some more of the stuff, but by this time it was a different name; most of the synthetics don't bother trying to call it Spice or K2. So here's the long part I'll make super short--they changed the stuff to something else. I got a bigger head change, but unlike the first time I tried it, after I came down I just wanted more, which tells me there's almost certainly some kind of methamphetamine in the mix. I got hooked on the stuff for a while, and after one final, dramatic, psychedelic trip (no other word for it), I quit, and I went through withdrawal, which actually surprised me. Only then did I reflect back and realize how addictive it was.

Ban synthetics, full stop. Decriminalize cannabis, full stop. We've got those those laws and viewpoints precisely backwards.
posted by zardoz at 4:41 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

MDMA's a synthetic and is a pretty fantastic drug. It was kind of shocking seeing the differences in raving out in BC, where everyone was on MDMA (and most of the time everyone was on the exact same batch of caps) and then moving back here where crystal was common as an adjunct, and people were getting pills instead of caps--shoddier manufacturing process, not necessarily MDMA (though likely something in the family). It was so much darker here, much less PLUR everywhere.

MDMA also has significant therapeutic potential, especially for PTSD.

I'm with you on banning e.g. meth in a general sense, though the Portugal model is obviously the only real way to go
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:51 PM on August 8, 2015

but unlike the first time I tried it, after I came down I just wanted more, which tells me there's almost certainly some kind of methamphetamine in the mix.

posted by p3on at 4:56 PM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

I also 2011 to 2012ish, I tried K2 when I went through a period of finding it hard to get pot. It seemed like a pretty decent substitute for a while. Like pot, it was good for sex, and it wore off in 30 minutes to an hour, which wasn't always terrible.

However, as I kept using it, while I was on it, I started to have... seizures? I don't know what else to call them, but I don't know what the experience of having an actual seizure is like either, so I may be totally off base. My wife never noticed when it was happening to me, either. What I experienced was this sort of intense dizziness, intense head pain, and the sensation of, like, a very intense buzzer or bell going off, only right inside my head.

After the fourth or fifth time, I decided that the benefits probably didn't outweigh whatever damage I might be doing to myself with this mystery chemical. My wife eventually got a pot card, and now weed is decriminalized here in Oregon, so I don't have to worry about it. Who knows how much its changed at this point. It's probably not even vaguely the same stuff. I won't be trying it again, even if I ever end up moving somewhere where I don't have a way to get pot.
posted by Caduceus at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm with you on banning e.g. meth in a general sense, though the Portugal model is obviously the only real way to go

I'm sure not down with that. It's pure "My drug is good. Your drug is questionable. Their drug is bad."
posted by Justinian at 5:12 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Meth is unambiguously destructive. So's heroin.

And I said "the Portugal model is obviously the only real way to go." So to spell it out for you: I personally think that meth and heroin need to stay illegal (though punish production and sale, not purchase), and I think that the only rational way forward is to do what Portugal has done: decrim everything there is and provide comprehensive support for substance abuse.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:02 PM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think the #1 important thing, even more so than focusing on legalizing stuff which is probably my top domestic political concern, is that treatment is easily and freely available. And also, that long term support is available for people exiting treatment who haven't quite yet found steady work to provide that support instead.

There are reasons people use substances beyond the high. Often pre-existing reasons. Stopping the use of drugs doesn't solve those sorts of problems, the pre-existing stuff that led to drug use has to be handled too.

I had some legal issues regarding substances when I was a teenager. The legally mandated treatment was focused entirely, 100%, on the idea that I was an addict of those substances. But, that wasn't it. I was arrested for pot. I was addicted to tobacco. And alcohol was what was making my life a mess at the time. The reasons I was using all three substances in the first place...nobody the legal system put in front of me even asked about it, much less had an answer for it.

So, look, meth and heroin are evil, evil drugs. But I smoked heroin multiple times and it did nothing for me even though I have a personality that is vulnerable to addiction. It made me smiley, that's all. No big deal, but I shoplifted multiple times to get cigarettes and if I mess up with alcohol again I'll be in jail for a long time. The most important thing is that the treatment is there for the people who are suffering, not that we find which drugs must be banned and which are okay.

So, as usual I'm taking the long way around here to make my point. Meth and heroin, pot or alcohol, tobacco or spice, cocaine or khat...the substance itself should not be the main concern. Any recreational substance we legalize has the potential to cause some users to become dependent and hurt themselves over it. The most important priority should always be that, legal or not, whatever the drug, we treat the people struggling with it as human beings who need our help. That means even if they have done stuff we have to regard as criminal. I was arrested for driving drunk. Society absolutely can't give me a pass for that, but it can make an effort to find out a way it can fix me that isn't focused on the idea that addiction is the only potential problem. This is a solvable problem.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:36 PM on August 8, 2015 [17 favorites]

Talking about "evil drugs" plays directly into the hands of the drug warriors. There is no such thing as an evil drug. There are people who can use drugs responsibly and people who cannot. There are drugs with higher addiction potential and drugs with lower addiction potential. But we need to move past the failed rhetoric of the past 30 years. "Evil drugs" is part and parcel of that failed rhetoric.

There is nothing about these drugs which could possibly be more evil than the state's response to them over the past few decades, and nothing could be more evil than continuing to pursue the prohibition which has proven such a failure. The drugs aren't evil. Our responses to them have been.
posted by Justinian at 7:16 PM on August 8, 2015 [13 favorites]

Good thing I didn't say evil, I said destructive. And you're responding to the opposite of what I've said, which is: decriminialize everything.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:32 PM on August 8, 2015

I never understood why alcohol wasn't enough for some people. It's legal! It's cheap! It's ubiquitous! There are many, many flavors and styles. Why risk your health with mystery drugs like Spice, or risk arrest with other stuff, when you can just get drunk?
posted by desjardins at 7:39 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shit's bad news. My former partner got hooked on it (as a replacement for weed due to constant court/custody battles with his ex), and there were quite a few times that I thought I would have to call the EMTs because he was over-the-top-scared after toking. Like hallucinating scared. Now he lives in Maine and has all the naturel he needs (wants), thanks to a medical script. And I'm here in NY, not having to worry anymore.
posted by sundrop at 7:40 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I said evil FFFM, I think Justinian was addressing stuff I said.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:48 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:52 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

You are the best FFFM. For real.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:06 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Meth: so destructive we prescribe it to 12 year olds. Meth is a fine drug used responsibly, although the illegal labs can be dangerous. A lot of the bad rep meth gets is really explained by rural poverty, not meth. And anyway, alcohol is far more destructive than any illegal drug out there.
posted by dis_integration at 8:49 PM on August 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

So's heroin.

Inherently? Not so much really. Which I guess goes for lower (less "recreational") doses of amphetamines to some extent. Extended high-dose stimulant use does present health risks that can only be mitigated so much.
posted by atoxyl at 9:19 PM on August 8, 2015

"I never understood why alcohol wasn't enough for some people. It's legal! It's cheap! It's ubiquitous! There are many, many flavors and styles. Why risk your health with mystery drugs like Spice, or risk arrest with other stuff, when you can just get drunk?"

Uh obviously you're not a golfer. Alcohol's a depressant, is highly addictive for a fairly large number of people, and is easy to get sick on. Plus, you know how sometimes people have to try a bunch of different antidepressants before they find one that works? A lot of people's brain chemistry works better with other intoxicants.

And that's before even getting to things like MDMA and LSD, which both combine euphoria with clinical therapeutic value. Imagine the emotional catharsis of a major personal breakthrough plus also rewriting your basic proprioceptive nerve responses to convert the sensation of being in space to one of tactile pleasure. Plus also dance music is playing.
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 PM on August 8, 2015 [21 favorites]

Yeah alcohol is brutal, and not for me. It makes me feel immediately sick, while smoking pot pretty much always cures what ails me. It blows my mind that pot is illegal where I live, but then again where I live they've got a big ol' mountain covered in civil war "heroes". :-/
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:26 PM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is freaky and unpleasant, but literally between the time that I started to read this thread and this moment, an acquaintance that I've been helping out showed up at my door out of his mind - and revealed to me that when he was staying with us a year and a half ago, he was sneaking out to take "K2".

He was telling me that he had a plan - he was going to be elected President of Manhattan.

He wasn't clear enough to tell me if he was on drugs or not but... Jesus.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:51 PM on August 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was just watching a BBC programme Pop Up Nairobi, which among other things covered problems with alcohol in Kenya. It claimed that there is a phenomenon of wives Bobbittizing their tippler husbands in protest of a lack of sexual attention, i.e. that if their dicks are useless due to constant inebriation they may as well be gotten rid of. They interviewed a guy who sells a gag-gift of a padlocked steel codpiece / chastity belt for drinking safely.
posted by XMLicious at 10:10 PM on August 8, 2015

Seriously, fuck this stuff. I work in a behavioral health center as an RN, and I can tell you that some of the worst patients we've had over the past year have been heavy spice users. "Spice kids," we call them. Usually incapable of interacting appropriately with others, they are relegated to the higher acuity unit, where typical behaviors include active visual/auditory/tactile hallucinations, rapid mood swings, and a penchant for undressing and/or urinating and defecating in the most inappropriate places. Many of these patients, unfortunately for us and for themselves, are in and out of the facility on a regular basis.
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 12:29 AM on August 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

This stuff is just awful, for all the reasons outlined above. In my town it was popular with refinery workers, as it had a reputation of being something that couldn't be picked up on a typical UA drug test (though one of my clients who works for a drug testing company assured me that they most definitely can and do test for it, although I'm not sure how the manufacturer's whack-a-mole approach with synthesizing new strains impacts that). A few times a year we have a big news debacle over someone just going off the deep end on this stuff; most recently that I can remember is someone driving their car over a large hill and into a canal, thinking they were getting on the freeway on-ramp.

I did experiment with it when it was just getting popular, I have to admit. The price and the legality made it appealing at the time. However, the effects were either totally underwhelming or (much worse) wayyyyyy too potent, which produced a terrible experience. The very last time I used it, I felt a total loss of sensation in the right side of my body. I spent the next hour or so trembling and hyperventilating with my cellphone in my left hand, 911 loaded and ready, wondering if I should call. I thought it had somehow caused a stroke. Never, ever again. That stuff is nothing but bad news.
posted by kryptondog at 3:57 AM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ok, I have no idea if it's amphetamines they are adding to the mix; I should've qualified that as a guess. I do know, though, as sure as the sky is blue and there's a nose on my face, that something in the stuff is full-on, hands-down physically addictive, and that it is bad stuff. If for no other reason than no one knows what the fuck is in Spice, seeing how the makers skirt laws by tweaking the formula to stay a few steps ahead of impending prohibition. Long-term effects are completely unknown simply because it hasn't been around all that long.

It's not like cannabis. Its effects share similarities, but it's really really different. Namely because cannabis isn't physically addictive and this stuff is.
posted by zardoz at 5:49 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

A lot of the bad rep meth gets is really explained by rural poverty, not meth.

as someone who grew up in rural poverty and as someone who lost a circle of friends in a pretty well off texas suburb to their increasing meth usage, i disagree with this.
posted by nadawi at 7:38 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

oh and why don't people just drink? alcohol is far more destructive than weed - both generally and to me personally. it took me two weeks from my first blender margarita made by my parents when i was in high school to sneaking booze in my water bottles and getting drunk on the bus on the way to school. it was no more than two months later when i was on yahoo chat trying to find local guys who were over 21 and would be willing to buy me booze in exchange for my company (and here a lot of really horrific stories live). i smoke a lot of weed, but it doesn't have any of the life ruining stuff that came along when i was just drinking.
posted by nadawi at 7:50 AM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also booze has a lot of calories.
posted by Mitheral at 8:36 AM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Behavioral health centers are becoming more and more reluctant to prescribe benzos, and will soon begin to reap what they sow on that. Including more people turning to illegal or unmonitored drug usage. I'm glad I live in a state that is civilized enough to legalize marijuana. I'm not glad at all that my state is one of the most restrictive about prescribing the "-pams", as my therapist calls them. I think benzodiazepines can help just as many patients' problems as marijuana, and I find it cruel that current laws are more restrictive about those than they are about a federally illegal drug. It's almost as if WA would rather have people smoking weed than on any other drug aside from alcohol.
posted by JLovebomb at 11:32 AM on August 9, 2015

It reminds me of people that were selling salvia as a legal alternative to marijuana, and while that's not nearly as noxious as crapped out mystery chemicals, it's certainly not anything like marijuana. It's a dissociative, and that sort of thing is a fairly mess hole to run into without adequate foreknowledge.

I know several people who thinking it was comparable to pot, smoked a decent sized bowl of 20x strength stuff and then got to have a unexpected conversation with self transforming machine elves or nightmare hellscape freakout trip.
posted by Ferreous at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting that limiting benzos may not only be about moralizing; they are horribly addictive and withdrawal can be actually dangerous.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:53 AM on August 9, 2015

True, but they are also very effective at treating certain conditions like anxiety. One of the best things we have for it in fact. It's a shitty trade off but denying treatment for an illness because the treatment is addictive is not necessarily a good thing.
posted by Ferreous at 12:01 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't mean addictive in the "makes you feel good so keep taking them" sense, I mean "makes you chemically dependent and dangerous to use long term" sense.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2015

I'm aware and I think the point still stands. I'd much rather be dependent on a pill (provided I knew my physician would keep me adequately supplied) vs dealing with a condition that renders me unable to function normally.

No one moralizes about the danger of something like depakote, but that stuff has brutal long term side effects and terrible withdrawal symptoms. The only difference is that it doesn't have an abuse potential.
posted by Ferreous at 12:14 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

In case you think I'm coming from a bad place, I was on clonazepam for over a year, couldn't function without it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:23 PM on August 9, 2015

I absolutely was not speaking to the moral aspects of the preferences between legal drugs in my state, just the skewed perspectives lawmakers seem to have. Washington would rather people smoke weed and drink alcohol than prescribe pharms to treat people's acute conditions.
posted by JLovebomb at 12:33 PM on August 9, 2015

I'll definitely second those talking about its addictive properties. I'm not sure what gave me the strength to finally give it up, but it was difficult. As said above, you want to hit it immediately after the buzz starts to wear off, and that can lead into very easily smoking way too much in a short period of time. I would get anxious if I hadn't been on it for a while, so I'd smoke to calm myself, then need to keep smoking to avoid the come down. Even now, remembering how bad some of the experiences were, part of me feels drawn to it and I feel a temptation to order some of it online, just to try once more. But it's such nasty stuff -- I saw some people have really negative reactions, just go nearly catatonic on the stuff. Never again.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:41 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spice Boys: Vice News report on Spice use in England.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:52 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wrote about a better way to deal with this here: New Zealand's attempt at creating an FDA for recreational drugs, so that they could go through clinical trials and get tested and approved (or not) like other drugs.

We're going to have to get to something like it eventually because the current system is completely irrational. The reason we can't ban or appropriately regulate this stuff is because our drug laws are irrational— some of the most harmful drugs are legal and some of the least are illegal and the only reason for this is that drug laws were made due to racist panics, not science. You can't create a rational way to make new drugs illegal based on the irrational way the old ones were classified.

To have better drug laws, we've got to use science to determine what's the safest way to handle the human drive to get high— safest as in minimizes addiction and OD risk, etc., does not create a system more harmful than the drug itself in an attempt to stop people using, does not drive people to more dangerous stuff or the arms of the mob and recognizes that the moral notion that alcohol is OK and everything else is not is simply prejudice.
posted by Maias at 5:53 PM on August 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

...I've been off of everything except coffee and aspirin for the last 6 years. But all of this drug talk is making me want to do something, dammit.
posted by ELF Radio at 4:55 AM on August 10, 2015

Just this evening I was wondering what would make a person do this.
posted by Mezentian at 7:36 AM on August 10, 2015

I know a corrections officer whose feeling that we should legalize marijuana has become much stronger as a direct result of seeing the effects of synthetics on regular users who come in and out of the facility where he works. He's talked about seeing a dramatic physical and mental decline in regular users and recently mentioned that one of his favorite inmates died shortly after release as a result of smoking synthetics.
posted by maurice at 9:42 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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