K2, Spice and Synthetic Marijauna information for parents

What Parents Need to Know About
Synthetic Marijuana and Bath Salts

(Commonly referred to as Designer Drugs)


What are designer drugs?

The term “designer drugs” refers to drugs that are created in an “underground” or illegal laboratory. A designer drug is created by changing the properties of a drug that comes from a plant, such as marijuana or cocaine, using the tools of chemistry. The resulting “designer” drugs typically have similar or sometimes heightened effects compared to the illegal recreational drugs.

What is synthetic marijuana (K2, Spice)?Spice packet.jpg

K2 is a popular new designer drug that has effects just like marijuana. Many copy cat products that contain the same chemicals are being sold on the internet, in boutique stores, gas stations and smoke shops. K2 looks like potpourri and consists of leaves, stems and petals of aromatic plants such as licorice. These crushed plants are “laced with” the active chemicals and are sold as “incense” or “legal highs”. It is usually smoked in a small pipe or a cigarette. Scientifically you may hear this referred to as JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-250, AM-2201 or similar.

What are “bath salts”?

Bath salts are a synthetic form of amphetamines and cocaine. The bath salts samples feathered.jpgpackets are marketed as “bath salts” or “plant food” and are available in corners stores, truck stops and on the Internet. They come with an often-ignored disclaimer, "Not for human consumption." These "bath salts" are really a tablet or powder that is snorted, injected or smoked. They are sold in packets marked with names like Bounce, Bubbles, Energy-1, Ivory Wave, and more.

Is it legal?

In March 2011 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) took a big step to keep teens away from synthetic marijuana by banning some of the chemicals* used to make it. This action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. The DEA noted this emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety. Then in October 2011, the DEA exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control 3 chemicals found in “bath salts.” By checking with your local law enforcement officials, you can learn more about the legal status of additional compounds* in your state. Additionally, NMS Labs posts links to resources that can help you to determine legality of these substances in your area.

Is there testing available for designer drugs?

spoon image for web.jpgNMS Labs is the industry leader in designer drug testing, keeping up with current drug trends and developing new tests all the time. We are able to detect new substances that are rapidly appearing on the market and offer testing in urine, blood and serum/plasma for physicians and other healthcare providers to order. They can contact us at 1-800-522-6671 for testing or for more information.

Why should you be concerned about designer drugs?

The compounds in designer drugs are synthetic chemicals made in a lab and their safety has not been studied. Side effects are not well known and there are increasing reports of users getting sick, fake pot small.jpgshowing up in the emergency room, and even dying. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, over 13,000 human exposure calls were received in 2011 for synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts combined. Any drug that affects intoxication can interfere with behavior, school, work, and relationships. Kids behind the wheel after using these drug are being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).

What should you do if you suspect your child is using?

Take your child to the family physician or to the emergency room if he or she is showing signs of intoxication.

Will drug tests available at the pharmacy find these chemicals?

Routine drug tests from laboratories and drug test kits available at pharmacies currently do not include testing for synthetic marijuana or bath salts.

What might you observe if your child is using or abusing designer drugs?

Immediate physical affects after smoking:
- Dizziness
- Laughing
- Confusion
- Disorientation
- Silly behavior
- Severe anxiety
- Bloodshot eyes
- Increased pulse
- Chills and sweating
- Total paralysis
- Depression
- No memory of recent events or conversations
- Seizures
- Possible death

Longer term behavioral effects:
- Changes in their friends or social circle
- Change in their academic performance and absenteeism
- Loss of interest in and deteriorating family or friend relationships
- Loss of interest in favorite extracurricular activities
- Change in levels of energy, grooming habits & attitude towards life

Why do kids use designer drugs instead of other drugs?

High school and college students, in particular, are choosing synthetic marijuana or bath salts over marijuana, cocaine and other drugs because they are highly promoted online, are easy to obtain and until recently, have been legal in many states. Many students and teenagers are aware that designer drugs will not be detected in routine drug tests.


* From the National Conference of State Legislatures


Learn more about Synthetic Marijuana

Learn more about Bath Salts

« Return to Forensic Services



NMS Labs is the only independent forensic facility in the nation to be certified by both the ABFT (American Board of Forensic Toxicology) and ASCLD/LAB-International (American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board) ISO 17025 in the disciplines of DNA & serology and controlled substances. We have held these certifications since 2005 and 2003 respectively.  We diligently maintain and exceed the high standards set by these organizations, so that you can have the utmost confidence in your testing results.