What is Spice? The facts on the drug that turns users into zombies

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Disturbing footage showing ‘zombie-like’ figures wandering the streets of Blackpool have highlighted the dangers of the deadly drug Spice.

One woman was filmed frozen to the spot outside a disused Home Bargains store, hunched over two bags on the ground at the popular family seaside resort.

Another man was seen with his feet seemingly glued to the ground and standing still in the middle of a busy street.

Both people had taken Spice – but what are the facts about this increasingly popular drug?

Spice turns users into a ‘zombie-like’ state (Rex)

What is Spice?

Spice is a mixture of herbs and man-made chemicals and is sometimes called ‘synthetic marijuana’ or ‘fake weed’ due to similar ingredients. However, the effects are often very different from marijuana, with users going through mind-altering experiences. It is made from dried plant material and herbs that is sprayed with active ingredients. The drug was invented accidentally by organic chemist John Huffmann at Clemson University in South Carolina. He was searching for a new way of developing anti-inflammatory medication which happened to involve the creation of hundreds of synthetic types of cannabis including one called JWH-018. Huffmann declared it not fit for human consumption in 2006, but it began to surface on websites two years later.

Where has it come from?

The drug was initially sold all over the world on the internet and had up until recently only believed to be a problem in prisons across the country. However, increasing reports and videos of users suffering the effects have been posted online. It is thought that heroin users are turning to the drug as it is much cheaper to buy, meaning addicts are less likely to turn to crime to fund their fix. It first emerged in the UK in 2004.

MORE: Thousands line the streets for funeral of Westminster attack hero PC Keith Palmer
MORE: Sorry everyone, that three-month long heatwave you heard about isn’t happening

How is it taken?

Much like marijuana, Spice is smoked in cigarette papers. It was once marketed as a herbal smoking tobacco substitute and sold as potpourri, room fragrance or incense.

How widespread is its use across Britain?

Spice is a particular problem with homeless people. Lifeshare, a northern-based young homeless persons charity, estimated recently that 95% of young homeless people in Manchester regularly take the drug, with claims the city is now suffering from a Spice ‘epidemic’. Growing numbers of youngsters in London have reportedly become hooked on it over the past two years.

Is it legal?

No. Spice was once sold as a legal high but the JWH-018 compound was banned in the UK in 2010. However, manufacturers soon started tweaking the formula to get around the ban until all forms of the compound were all banned with the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016. It is now a Class B drug, punishable by up to five years in jail for possession and up to 14 years for supply or production.

Top pic: Wikipedia