New Substance Alert – Spice – Treatment Center Update from Sober Living by the Sea


Our treatment center has seen many new drugs of abuse arrive in the last 25 years. One of the drugs that is currently legal is the drug called Spice. Spice (also known as K2) is considered by many to be “legal marijuana” and is an herbal smoking mixture of plant substances that contains a synthetic cannabinoid that gives marijuana like sensations.

Spice Alert

We wanted to alert you to a new substance that has surfaced in our area.  Spice is a herbal substance that gives a “cannabis-like” effect when smoked.  The Sober Living by the Sea Community, as well as treatment centers across the Nation, are facing this new epidemic of Spice use head on, and we are all working to increase awareness for ourselves, our population and our families.  We continue to research remedies, both in the medical community and though educational resources. We wanted to take this opportunity to make you aware of the existence of this new substance as you may hear about it from your loved one.  We would ask for your cooperation in our efforts to combat this now legal substance.  We are hoping that by providing the following information that you will have the knowledge you may need if your loved one broaches the subject in a conversation.

The smoking mixture, known as Spice, is sold nationwide in shops that specialize in the sale of drug paraphernalia, also known as “head shops”.  It looks, and smells, much like potpourri, so it is difficult to detect.  Many users of this substance are concealing it by rolling it into cigarettes, or putting a bit into a wad of chewing gum.

Dr. Les King, an expert in the field of drug use, made a presentation at a 2009 drug conference in Lisbon. The conference was made up of a group of government councils looking to find solutions to this new problem.  Dr. King told the group that “Just a few months ago, it was found that a smoking mixture known as Spice was not the innocuous material that it purported to be. The claimed contents, namely various herbs, were a Trojan Horse. The real psychoactive contents were synthetic additives.”  He further stated that the synthetic additives mimicked the effects of THC, the psychoactive substance that gives cannabis its high.

By way of history, Spice, which is imported from China and sells for approximately $35/gram in the Newport Beach area, has been marketed since 2006.  It is known to contain an unidentified herbal matter that the producers of the substance claimed to be innocuous. We now know this to be a false statement.  In fact, ongoing investigations into the substance have reveled that the so-called “legal highs” are due to such ingredients as Salvia divinorum, a hallucinogen that has been blamed as a contributory factor in teenage suicides. The psychoactive herb, sold legally over the internet, is said to cause uncontrollable laughter and evoke childhood memories.

Our staff are on constant alert for common symptoms such as a flushed face and glazed eyes.  Given the fact that the effects last a short time, as they rush through the body within approximately a half hour it is difficult to detect the symptoms or to be aware of affect disruption.

We have, and continue to offer ongoing education both to the staff and clients on symptom substitution, addictive patterns, and alert all to the dangers.  Given the difficulty in detection, we have put the following measures in place at this time; increased searches of the clients; random patrolling of the businesses that sell this substance in an attempt to put pressure on retailers, and an increased awareness on our staff’s part to diligently look for the limited signs of use.  We monitor the client’s financial accounts for amounts that alert us to the potential purchases and when we suspect that a client may be using, we work with the families and staff to limit access to funds thereby putting in place financial boundaries which may make it more difficult for them to access the funds in an attempt by them to purchase the substance.  We are also working with other facilities in the treatment community to work together in our ongoing efforts to understand, monitor and hopefully reduce the access to the substance.

As Spice is currently legal, and there are no drug tests currently available to detect the drug, we know that we must all, staff, clients, families, and the medical community, come together in order to be alert and aware of the dangers.  It is our goal to keep the families informed, if we suspect use of Spice by their loved one, by consistent vigilance and a proactive response.  We, as you do, struggle each day to stay ahead of the constant barrage of substances that impact our clients in a negative manner.  We strive to ensure for the safety and well being of each of our clients and will continue to investigate Spice always searching for solutions.

We welcome your comments, questions and input and encourage you to be proactive in assisting your loved one by having open and honest conversations.  We want you to know that we are here to assist you if you need additional information, or setting up a time to talk with your loved one.

Thank you for your ongoing support, cooperation and understanding.

Kathleen Sylvia, R.N., M.B.A., Executive Director
Sober Living By The Sea