Teenage boy running from zombies who are chasing him.

Fake weed also known as K2/Spice, legal bud, and synthetic marijuana is a herbal mixture that contains dried, shredded plant material and harmful chemical additives. These synthetic chemical compounds are extremely harmful and unsafe for people to consume or ingest by smoking, drinking or eating, although many users smoke it like marijuana.

Fake weed gives many users a “high” or feelings similar to those produced by marijuana, but because fake weed contains harmful chemicals, users may also experience severely negative psychotic and health effects. The harmful chemicals in fake weed also cause rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, tremors and seizures, which often send users to the emergency room for treatment.

Also, fake weed can cause brain damage. Studies and recent media reports show that using fake weed causes seizures, comas, brain damage, nerve trauma, and in some extreme cases, stroke and the loss of motor skills such as speaking, walking and the movement of arms and legs. Physical signs of use include agitation; elevated blood pressure, heart rate and palpitations; loss of control; pale skin; profuse sweating; seizures; and vomiting.

Fake weed causes extreme anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, alienation/disassociation, psychotic episodes and hallucinations. This behavior has been labeled the “zombie” effect.

Spice is pretty new, so we haven’t yet studied how it affects the brain. We do know that the chemicals found in fake weed attach to the same nerve cell receptors as THC, the main mind-altering component of marijuana. However, some of the chemicals found in fake weed attach to those receptors more strongly, which could lead to a much stronger and more unpredictable effect. We don’t know the chemical composition of many products sold as fake weed. So, it’s likely that some varieties also contain substances that could cause very different effects than the user might expect. (Source: NIDA)

Fake weed is often directly marketed to youth through sales in 3-ounce plastic pouches decorated with colorful designs including cartoon characters or recognizable logos. It’s sold over the Internet, in tobacco and smoke shops, drug paraphernalia shops, gas stations, and convenience stores. Some Spice products are sold as “incense,” but they look more like potpourri.

You can turn down drugs the same way you would turn down food when you aren’t hungry. There are tons of ways to turn down drugsyou can be friendly, firm and in control.

Talk to your friend about your concerns and share with them the facts and dangers of using fake weed. Be open to listening to what they have to say, too. Be safe about it and don’t confront them when they are drunk or high. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to solve the problem and you may have to ask a trusted adult to get help for your friend.