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Are Your Kids Trying the New “Fake” and 100% Legal Marijuana? “K2” Causing Dangerous Highs in Teens


It’s known as "K2," Spice," Genie" and "Zohai,” and although it’s now banned in Kansas, Kentucky and Alabama, this “fake” form of marijuana is perfectly legal to buy in the rest of the country, including online.


“Spice” is sold as incense, but teens and college kids smoke it to get high. Though it’s still legal in most states, it’s been linked to a disturbing number of side effects, ranging from seizures to elevated blood pressure and hallucinations. Photo Source: Drug Enforcement Agency

K2, also known as “fake marijuana,” has been on the market since 2006, sold as a form of incense or potpourri at a cost of up to $35 an ounce. Kids, however, are smoking the fake pot to get high.

An Unregulated, “Anything Goes” Blend

K2, which is often produced in China and Korea, is a mix of herbs, flowers, tobacco or spices sprayed with JWH-018, a synthetic compound with similar -- but more potent -- effects to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

First discovered by chemist John W. Huffman in the mid-1990s, JWH-018, or K2, is about 10 times more potent than THC, and both compounds impact your brain and central nervous system. In addition, JWH-018 also impacts brain receptors involved in with the immune system.

Hallucinations, Heart Troubles

Kids smoking K2 are showing up in emergency rooms with symptoms far removed from those you would associate with smoking pot. Far from being sleepy or relaxed, as often occurs from THC, some youth aged 14-21 experienced hallucinations, elevated blood pressure and heart rates, vomiting, seizures and increased agitation -- none of which are side effects experts would associated with JWH-018.

According to Dr. Anthony Scalzo, a professor of toxicology at Saint Louis University, in LiveScience, it’s likely that either the concentration of JWH-018 is too high in the “incense” or another unlisted compound is contaminated the product and causing ill effects.

"It's like playing Russian roulette. You don't know what it's going to do to you," Huffman told LiveScience.

To date Scalzo says he’s seen more than 40 cases of Missouri teenagers suffering adverse reactions to K2. Poison Centers nationwide have also reported over 350 cases in 35 states, according to USA Today.

While researchers are still looking into the human health effects of JWH-018, the Drug Enforcement Agency states the substance can lead to lower body temperature, partial paralysis and temporary inability to feel pain in mice.

At least a dozen states are currently considering banning this concerning substance, but for now it’s still widely available and increasing in popularity among teenagers and college students.

Signs Your Child Could be Using Drugs

Even though K2 is still legal in many states, the risks are similar to those of illegal drugs like marijuana and ecstasy. Experimentation with K2 could lead to experimentation with other, illegal drugs, and can also lead to addiction and dependence on drugs.

If your child is using drugs of any kind, you may notice changes in personality, interests, appetite or sleeping habits. Your child could become depressed, angry or even less careful about grooming. He may also stop having an interest in sports or another former hobby or have trouble keeping his grades up.

If you notice any of the following signs, drug use could be to blame:

  • Changes in friends, hobbies and interests

  • Increased secrecy about possessions and activities, or discussions with friends

  • Use of incense, perfume or other fragrance to cover up smoke and chemical odors

  • Change in personal appearance and clothing

  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia (pipes, rolling papers, etc.)

  • Eye drops, used to mask red, bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils

  • Increased use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of smoke/alcohol, etc.

“These changes often signal that something harmful is going on—and often that involves alcohol or drugs. You may want to take your child to the doctor and ask him or her about screening your child for drugs and alcohol. This may involve the health professional asking your child a simple question, or it may involve a urine or blood drug screen.

However, some of these signs also indicate there may be a deeper problem with depression, gang involvement, or suicide. Be on the watch for these signs so that you can spot trouble before it goes too far,” according to the Parents: The Anti-Drug web site.

Talk to Your Child (or Grandchild) About Drug Use Now


Teens are three times more likely to use drugs when they have unsupervised time, so make sure you know what your kids are up to at all times (including who will be there to supervise).

You can make a major difference by talking to your child (or grandchild) about drugs. In fact, according to, “Nearly two-thirds of teenagers see great risk of upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends if they smoke marijuana or use other drugs.”

If you teach your child the risks of drug use, and let her know your expectations, she’ll be less likely to get involved with drugs in the first place.

First and foremost, set ground rules so your children know that drug and alcohol use is not acceptable. Let them know that there will be consequences for breaking the rules, and enforce those consequences if necessary. Also be sure to praise your child for good behavior on a regular basis.

Next, always be aware of where your child is and give him set time limits of when you expect him home. According to, teenagers are three times more likely to use marijuana and other drugs when they have unsupervised time, so be sure you know where your child is and what activities will be taking place at all times.

It’s also important to get to know your child’s friends (and their parents). Hopefully your teen will have established a good group of friends and takes part in sports or other safe after-school activities to stay out of trouble. Finally, it may help to develop a family values statement, which establishes your family’s core beliefs and expectations. This way each family member knows what is expected of him or her, including what is not acceptable (drugs, sex, theft, etc.).

Help for Children Who May be Addicted

If you suspect your child is using drugs, even “legal” drugs like K2, it’s time to intervene. It’s a good idea to seek the help of a drug counselor who can guide both you and your teen during this time.

Also, realize the importance of helping your teen to replace the negative addiction with positive activities instead. Excellent healthy replacement options for drug use, which you can help your teen get involved in, include:

  • Healthy eating: Often, when a person of any age leads a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet, drugs fall by the wayside. Drug use and healthy eating do not go hand-in-hand, and the latter always makes the person feel better, more energized and more in control.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise is good for your body and your mind, and a vigorous workout is one of the best addiction distractions there is. SheaNetics from, founded by fitness expert Shea Vaughn, is an excellent exercise program to work into your teen’s routine (let them know that it’s taught by celebrity Vince Vaughn’s pro-athlete trainer mom to up the “cool factor!). It blends ancient and contemporary movements with eastern philosophy, creating a stylized approach to fitness designed to improve the quality of today’s western living, and because it comes in DVD format, you can do it anytime, anywhere.

  • Working with a mentor: A positive role model, someone who’s motivated to help your teen stay off drugs and on the right track, can be invaluable during a teen’s impressionable years. This could be a counselor, coach, older sibling or relative, anyone who your child looks up to.

  • Relaxation techniques: If your child is turning to drugs for stress relief, replacing the unhealthy addiction with positive forms of stress management is essential. Dr. Peter Reznik has developed “Staying Healthy In A Stressful World” , which is a very engaging insightful CD for all ages. Here too are 15 tips to help your teen relax, fast, in healthy, positive ways. For instance, listening to soft, soothing music is one of the fastest ways to alter your mood and put your mind in a more relaxed state.

One of the best relaxation CDs we have found is the Pure Relaxation: Guided Meditations for Body, Mind & Spirit CD. The guided meditations and music on this CD calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body. Using these guided meditations regularly will help you to live in a more relaxed way and you'll notice that when you begin to feel stressed, you'll be able to relax more easily than before.

SixWise Ways!
SixWise Says ...

Parents and Grandparents, send your pre-teens and teens to, an awesome site to help your kids stay “above the influence” of drugs …


Recommended Reading

The Dangers of and Arguments for Salvia -- The Completely Legal Hallucinatory Drug

Illegal Drugs Identification Chart: What They Look Like & How to Recognize Their Effects

Sources March 3, 2010 May 24, 2010 March 4, 2010 May 25, 2010

Parents. The Anti-Drug

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