‘Spice’ ban as tests show legal herbal drug is as potent as cannabis

By chillinwill · Aug 12, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    A legal herbal drug which is sold around the country is to be banned after studies showed that it is as powerful as some strains of strong cannabis.

    Spice, a herbal smoking mixture, is sold on the internet and in “head shops” as a legal high and nicotine-free smoke. In some cases it is even advertised as an “aromatic pot pourri”.

    The smoking mixture, which has synthetic additives, comes slickly packaged in sealed pouches — holding just under an ounce — at a cost of about £30.

    Although it purports to be an entirely natural mix of herbs and plants including Baybean and vanilla, the marijuana-type high that users get from Spice comes from a synthetic cannabinoid four or five times as potent as THC, the main psyschoactive substance in cannabis.

    Today the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the Government’s official drug adviser, will recommend to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, that Spice be added to the list of prohibited drugs.

    Ministers are then expected to bring forward legislation in the autumn to ban the drug. The decision to recommend a ban on Spice is likely to be followed by action to outlaw other legal highs.

    Earlier this year Jacqui Smith, when she was Home Secretary, expressed her concern at the wide and largely unregulated market in alternative drugs that she said were being sold in “head shops” as so-called legal highs.

    Head shops are retailers specialising in drug paraphernalia and New Age herbs, as well as counter-culture magazines, music and clothing.

    Ms Smith specifically asked for advice on Spice, which had first been imported from China in 2006, before batches were seized in Sweden, Switzerland and Jersey. The drug was banned in Germany, Austria and France, early this year.

    Professor Leslie Iversen, chairman of the technical committee of the Advisory Council, said: “We all view this as being particularly serious. It is a very clever product, sold as a herbal smoking mixture from China, but containing chemicals which can be a lot more potent than cannabis.”

    He told the Oxford Mail: “Users have no idea what they are taking. As a result they are running a considerable risk of overdosing, which is not only unpleasant, but potentially quite dangerous.”

    Users tend to smoke Spice in joints with a bit of tobacco, as smokers do with cannabis. Unlike cannabis it takes some time to produce an effect.

    Early last year the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs early warning system, which links police, customs officials and drug specialists in the EU, identified a dozen online distributors, half of them based in Britain.

    Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: “Spice products are deliberately manufactured to mimic the effects of cannabis, and the limited research available suggests that there are potential harms attached with their use.”

    He added: “Exploring control options for the substances could remove the incentive for the manufacture and supply of Spice as it would no longer be available as a legal alternative to cannabis.”

    Other 'legal highs'

    Salvia divinorum Rare plant found in Mexican mountains, smoked or chewed to give intense hallucinations. Drew controversy after suicide of American teenager who had used it. Banned in some US states and Australia

    Snow Blow Caffeine-based powder snorted to give an energetic, lively high. May cause dehydration and raise heart rate

    Mephedrone Marketed as “plant food”, 4-methylmethcathinone is a stimulant described as giving experiences similar to crystal meth. Banned in Sweden after death of 18-year old woman. Widespread popularity led Tayside police to warn clubbers about it last month

    Happy caps “Party pills” containing geranium extract and caffeine marketed to boost energy and “heighten awareness”

    Kratom Powdered extract from plants grown in Thailand. Narcotic with stimulant effects, though can work as sedative at higher doses with similar effects to opiates. Controlled in some areas of southeast Asia

    Sources: Shiva Head Shop, Herbal Highs, CoffeeSh0p, Research Chemicals, Times archive

    By Richord Ford
    August 12, 2009
    Times Online

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  1. chillinwill
    Behind the story: The market where Spice - 'the legal cannabis' - is easy to find

    Among the stalls of Camden Market in north London, Spice is easy to find, but shopkeepers say that is declining in popularity.

    Whereas a few months ago it was proudly displayed alongside the Rizlas, fruit tobaccos and plastic bongs, the drug is now pushed to the back of display cases or under the counter.

    Many “head shops” were willing to sell the drug to The Times yesterday. All believed that Spice had passed its peak.

    In June, police in Camden and officials from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency seized samples for analysis. The attention has put many shops off selling the drug, and regular door-to-door suppliers have disappeared, though Spice is still advertised online.

    In one of the larger head shops, the manager says that he sees no future in Spice. “We sell a few packets, but not much now. The supplier stopped coming about a month ago.”

    His shop started selling Spice a year ago, in response to requests from customers. Dedicated “stoners” recommend Spice mainly for its convenience and because it doesn’t show up in drug tests. Others complain though, that it is “a bit pricey”. In Camden, most places sell a 3g bag for £25 — noticeably more expensive than cannabis.

    Cannabis devotees are also wary of Spice because it is unclear what goes into it. The list of ingredients does little to clarify matters. It includes baybean, blue lotus, dwarf skullcap, Indian warrior, lion’s tail and marshmallow.

    Experts believe that added to the various herbs is a synthetic substance that mimics the effect of THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, but which may be far stronger.

    On the packet, Spice is described as an “exotic incense blend that releases a rich aroma when burned”, but which is “not for human consumption”. This is routinely ignored — the drug’s damp bouquet of mildewy tobacco shows that its popularity owes little to fragrance.

    By Chris Smyth
    August 12, 2009
    Times Online

    chillinwill added 1 Minutes and 6 Seconds later...

    Drug experts to urge ban on Spice 'herbal high'

    The government's drug experts will tomorrow recommend banning Spice, a herbal smoking mixture thought to be as strong as some strains of skunk cannabis.

    The decision, which the home secretary, Alan Johnson, is expected to endorse, will mark the first official move to curb a burgeoning market in "legal highs". Sales of herbal drug subsitutes have grown rapidly through a network of online sites and backstreet "head shops".

    The government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is to warn that Spice Gold, which is advertised as a herbal high and an "aromatic potpourri", is in reality far from innocuous. They will say it contains synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of some of the more powerful active ingredients in cannabis.

    The council's advice follows a request from the former home secretary Jacqui Smith to investigate the product in March.

    She voiced her concern over the "wide and largely unregulated market in the sale of psychoactive legal alternatives to illegal drugs, particularly as they are actively marketed to young people in head shops and via websites.

    "Advice on the availability and harms of these so called 'legal highs', with a particular focus on protecting young people, will be very useful in informing future government policies," Smith told the ACMD.

    Spice Gold has been around since 2006, when it was first imported from China. The smoking mixture costs £20 for a 3gram pouch, and contains mostly unidentified herbal matter, with ingredients such as dried flowers, leaves and aroma extracts listed on the packet. It is sold in various"flavours", with Arctic, Diamond and Silver promising different strengths.

    The Trojan Horse properties of Spice were only identified last December, by the THC Pharm laboratory in Germany, which is developing medicinal cannabis. The research led to a ban in Germany and Austria in January this year. France followed suit in February.

    Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the drugs information charity DrugScope, said making Spice products illegal would be a "pre-emptive measure", although the limited available research did suggest there were "potential harms" attached to their use.

    "Exploring control options for the substances could remove the incentive for the manufacture and supply of Spice, as it would no longer be available as a 'legal' alternative to cannabis," said Barnes. "While consistent with the aims of the Misuse of Drugs Act, a recommendation to make Spice illegal would be a pre-emptive measure and unusual in that it would be based on evidence of potential harms to individuals and society rather than proven actual harms."

    Professor Leslie Iverson, chairman of the ACMD committeethat drew up the report on Spice, stated his concerns: "It's a very clever product, sold as a herbal smoking mixture from China, but containing chemicals which can be a lot more potent than cannabis," he told his local paper, the Oxford Mail. "Users have no idea what they are taking. As a result, they are running a considerable risk of overdosing, which is not only unpleasant but potentially quite dangerous."

    It is expected that the ACMD will move on, after tackling Spice, to consider the position of other "legal highs" including Salvia divinorum, commonly known as magic mint or Mexican sage. An official consultation over plans to ban two synthetic party drugs, GBL and BZP – also known as "herbal ecstasy" – is due to end on Thursday.

    By Alan Travis
    August 11, 2009
    The Guardian
  2. cannabis-sam
    Sad news, guess it's the last we'll see of spice, although I expect similar things will be released in the near future (they have already I suppose).

    Spice was never a real alternative anyway as it costs more than an eighth of decent skunk. Although I guess it was a life saver to those having to use the far more harmful "soapbar" for lack of anything better. I feel sorry for those people.
  3. Joe-(5-HTP)
    Spice will be banned but other smoking mixtures won't be? And the pure compounds (Jwh-018 and so on) are also still unregulated? This isn't as bad as I had feared then.
  4. cannabis-sam
    Is that what's actually happening I had assumed spice was being used as the lames term for JWH-018. If they're just banning spice and leaving the rest legal SWIM's going to be a happy man. If this is the case good old AMCD I say.
  5. chinpokomaster
    The question is, what excuse do they have this time? Has it been linked to premature death? Mental illness? An acute increase in crime in areas where it is being used? Or is it being banned simply for political or economical reasons?
  6. Greenport
    Well the cat's out of the bag now anyways...now it is common knowledge that there are many (at least 70 known) cannabinoid-receptor agonists other than THC and indeed some of them show a much stronger effect. Not only that, but we have stumbled across some which are structurally completely unrelated to THC which means they would not be likely to show up on drug-tests in the first place.

    Perhaps we should have a cannabinoid synthesis section here now :)
  7. nomud
    :vibes: Swim agrees :)
  8. chillinwill
    Call to ban legal high in the UK

    Some herbal highs are just as harmful as cannabis and should be made illegal, according to the government's drug advisors.

    Scientists say that a plant based mix called Spice is coated with synthetic chemicals that work on the same part of the brain as the active ingredient in cannabis.

    Three gram packets of Spice are sold for around £25 over the internet, at festivals and in the same specialist shops that sell bongs and other smoking accessories.

    "You just don't know what you are getting with these products," said Professor David Nutt, the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

    "They potentially cause the same problems as cannabis."
    Head rush

    Twenty-two-year-old Joey, not his real name, from East Anglia told Newsbeat that his experience of Spice was similar to smoking standard cannabis.

    "I was quite surprised at how strong it actually was," he said.

    "With cannabis we all know the dangers but some of these other products are sold as purely herbal so you do think they are a lot better for you."

    Seventeen-year-old 'Sarah', again not her real name, said she smoked Spice with her friends when cannabis wasn't available.

    "I found it stronger than the weed on the street," she told Newsbeat. "We thought it was much safer and we weren't going to get paranoid but it had the same effects."
    Legal highs boom

    For years, the legal high market was dominated by small producers selling homegrown packets of natural herbs and weak pills laced with caffeine or the chemical ephedrine.

    "They never really had much effect," said John Ramsey, a toxicologist at St George's Hospital in London and specialist in drug identification.

    "We dismissed most of the herbs as just a bit of a joke."

    But a new generation of products started to emerge around five years ago, many with stronger effects more closely associated with illegal drugs.

    At the end of 2008 scientists researching Spice discovered it was not herbal at all but sprayed with a range of chemicals with obscure names like JWH 018 and CP 47,497.

    These "cannabinoids" were first created back in the 1980s by drug companies hoping to develop products with some of the same painkilling effects as cannabis.

    Most of the work was eventually scrapped as it proved difficult to replicate the medicinal or calming properties of the drug without the intoxicating effects.

    The same chemicals are now being used by some makers of legal highs, according to drug researchers.

    "Just because you buy it from a high street shop in a foil packet doesn't make it harmless," said John Ramsay. "We just don't know."
    Ban 'before Christmas'

    Spice itself is officially marketed as a herbal incense and is clearly marked as "not for human consumption".

    Newsbeat tried to reach the manufacturers of the drug for comment but they could not be contacted for this article.

    The specific chemicals used in Spice have already been banned in France, Germany and Austria.

    But with hundreds of other similar cannabinoids available it was simple for the makers to switch to a legal alternative and continue producing a substance with the same effects.

    The British government is now expected to follow the ACMD's recommendation and push through a total ban on the chemicals in Spice and similar cannabinoids in an attempt to snuff out the whole industry in one go.

    Newsbeat has been told ministers will signal their intention to outlaw Spice by the end of August with legislation likely this autumn and a full ban in place by spring 2010.

    But it might not be quite that simple.

    The legal high market is now extremely lucrative and scientists say the companies involved are probably already developing more pills and powders.

    By Jim Reed
    August 12, 2009
    BBC News

    chillinwill added 1 Minutes and 7 Seconds later...

    Herbal drug 'Spice' set to be banned for being stronger than cannabis

    A legal 'high' which is even more potent than cannabis should be banned, the Government's drug adviser said today.

    Pouches of the drug Spice, which are widely available on the internet and in smoking paraphernalia shops, are marketed as 'natural' and nicotine-free and sell for around £20.

    The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs chairman, Professor David Nutt, said although it was sold as a 'natural' high, Spice was created using dangerous chemicals.

    He said: 'Spice and other synthetic cannabinoid products are being sold legally as harmless "herbal legal highs".

    'However, the herbal content is coated in one or more dangerous chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cannabis.

    'These are not harmless herbal alternatives and have been found to cause paranoia and panic attacks.

    'That is why we are advising the Government to bring a large number of synthetic cannabinoids under the Misuse of Drugs Act.'

    Spice and other so-called 'synthetic cannabinoids' escape existing drugs laws because they do not contain marijuana and are not chemically related to it.

    But by spraying synthetic additives on to herbs, dealers can create similar intoxication in users to that caused by THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

    Analysis of samples of Spice show it has a 'higher potency' than THC, the ACMD warned.

    It said Spice could be 'more harmful' because of the quantity of chemicals in the drug is 'unknown to the user'.

    Home Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to legislate later this year to ban Spice. It is likely to be made a class B drug, alongside cannabis.

    A Home Office spokesman said: 'We are determined to crack down on those so-called "legal highs" that pose a significant health risk.

    'To this end, earlier this year we asked the ACMD to look into the harms caused by so called 'legal highs' and recently received its advice on this group of man-made chemicals that act on the body in a similar way to cannabis.

    'These have been recently found in herbal smoking products, including products sold under the brand name 'Spice'.

    'We will publish our response shortly, along with the proposed controls for a range of other substances.

    'We remain committed to tackling drug use in all its forms through tough enforcement, education and, where required, treatment. And it remains important that we continue to adapt our drug policy to tackle the changing environment in order to protect the public, especially our young people, from drug harms.'

    The review of legal highs was requested by former home secretary Jacqui Smith earlier this year and follows moves to ban Spice in Germany, Austria and France.

    At around £20 for three grams of Spice - sold under brands such as Spice Silver, Spice Gold, Spice Diamond and Spice Yucatan Fire - prices are similar to cannabis.

    The ACMD's report said herbs listed on the packets of the drug were often not found inside, but they did discover large amounts of Vitamin E used to hide other chemicals.

    The council admitted there is little detailed information about the size of the Spice market but it is clearly 'extensive' and distribution networks 'well developed'.

    Reports from Germany suggested some users suffered heart problems after smoking the drug.

    The ACMD's report stated: 'Users cannot ... assume the same effects from the same product the next time they use it.

    'Thus, there is potential for overdose should a person use a particularly strong batch or a synthetic cannabinoid with particularly high potency.'

    August 12, 2009
    Daily Mail
  9. miggeth
    Why are all these users talking to newsbeat and such? If some suit asked swim what he thought he'd say, 'never heard of it'.
  10. missparkles
    I find this statement so annoying. Sparkles can get a buzz off of a fuckin' donut, but if she ate enough there could be serious consequences.
    She could choke in her haste to eat it, she could get high blood pressure due to the weight she could gain. Or God forbid, she could have a stroke or a heart attack.:eek:
    But she knows these things so she only has the occasional one, and she eats it slowly, she savors the taste and enjoys it.:)
    Why does the government believe that drug users are less responsible than a person who enjoys eating donuts?
    She hopes no one reads this and decides to ban donuts.;)
  11. Synchronium
    It's a shame they never actually got in touch with any of those sources. I'm sure they all had a wealth of useful information to share...

    EDIT: Nice sig, missparkles. :)
  12. chinpokomaster
    What was his name, though? Henry or Stephen?
  13. thepieman1
    They forgot to add:

    Alcohol, created by the fermentation of various plants and provides an intoxicating, "depressant" effect. It is used in practically every country by millions of people. Often used to break social barriers at parties but can cause loss of motor control, nausea, lack of judgement, amnesia and in extreme doses, death. Has been significantly involved in many criminal incidents including car accidents and assault.

    edit: For the love of god don't ban salvia - otherwise swim will be upset
  14. chinpokomaster
    Don't worry. With the current trend in equal opportunities, they're likely to employ a dyslexic secretary who will finalise documents outlining the ban of SALIVA - then they'll have to legalise cannabis!
  15. baron samedi
    Don't believe for a minute that Spice will be the only "blend" classified. They will simply bring in a blanket ban on cannibinoids and their analogs, and that will be that, into the dark underbelly of the net and the street, like the "Shulgin" drugs popular a few years back.
    SWIM is really disappointed with the ACD with this. They are a pointless organisation anyway because if they ever recommend liberalizing drug laws the knee-jerk Labour (Tories would be the same) government completely overides their advice in order to please the populist press. But, let me guess, this time around the government will go along with their advice because it advocates tightening of drug laws.
    SWIM just finds the situation so depressing, boring and predictable, although obviously he himself, as a user, would like to know exactly what he was smoking and a properly regulated market, like the ones fo alcohol and tobacco. Slap a 21 age restriction on all "legals" and clamp down on those who sell to minors, and you've got a perfectly reasonable and civilized situation in SWIM's opinion.
  16. Alfa
  17. baron samedi
    Yeah, they'll kill off the cannabinoid market, along with maybe GBL, although there seems to be more opposition to that one.
    Then they'll slowly and laboriously move through the legal high market banning the most popular chemicals and plants. And so it will continue.
  18. thepieman1
    Who ever said it was like "crystal meth"? Also anyone calling it that has no idea what they're talking about.

    Also I didn't think kratom was particularly dangerous and it only has a mild effect. The only reason it's on this list, I can imagine, is because it's sold on the same websites as spice and salvia...

    Funny how they never mention aminita's either (or should I even be mentioning that?).
  19. baron samedi
    Kratom isn't particularly dangerous, but it's not that mild, especially high doses-very opium like. Even though it's not as dangerous as opium or other opiates/opioids most South-East Asian countries have banned it because of high rates of addiction among the locals. This is the region of the world from which it originates. It's managed to keep a nice low profile over here.
    The Amanitas DO always get away with it for that matter. Are they afraid of insulting the UK's population of Siberian Russians?
  20. missparkles
    Too bloody right love. If both of us share it, it has to be good.;)
    Sparkles believes his name was Henry Stephen Roberts.:)
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