How harmful is K2/Spice (synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids)?

Synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., synthetic marijuana, K2, Spice, Spike)—or plants sprayed with unknown chemicals—are dangerous and unpredictable. Synthetic cannabinoids are not marijuana, but like THC, they bind to the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain and other organs.

Research shows that synthetic cannabinoids affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana creating unpredictable and, in some cases, life-threatening effects including nausea, anxiety, paranoia, brain swelling, seizures, hallucinations, aggression, heart palpitations, and chest pains. For additional questions around synthetic cannabinoids, visit CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health page on synthetic marijuana or the National Institute on Drug AbuseExternal page on synthetic marijuana.

If someone you know has used synthetic cannabinoids and needs help you can take the following steps:
  • Call 911 immediately if someone stops breathing, collapses, or has a seizure. These symptoms can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.
  • Call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Call your doctor.