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First Multilingual Overview of ‘Spice' Drugs Raises New Concerns

02 December 2009 Hertfordshire, University of

A paper to be published this month by University of Hertfordshire researchers about the availability of ‘Spice’ drugs online will raise new concerns about its mood altering effects.

‘Spice’ is a brand name for a herbal mix widely sold as an ‘incense’ or legal substitute for cannabis. It comes under a variety of names according to its ‘flavours’, such as ‘Spice Diamond’, ‘Spice Gold’, ‘Spice Silver’, 2Spicy’, ‘Spice of Life’, etc, which according to users, are meant to produce subtly different effects.

The research paper entitled Psychoactive drug or mystical incense? Overview of the online available information on Spice products for which Professor Fabrizio Schifano and Dr  Ornella Corazza at the University’s School of Pharmacy are lead authors will be published in the International Journal of Culture and Mental Health this month.

The study carried out an eight-language qualitative assessment of information available on Spice products in a sample of about 200 web sites.

It reported that while Spice products appealed to online customers due to its cannabis –like effects, legal status, lack of detection in biological samples and ease of online access, typical online product descriptions of the drug did not mention its strong synthetic properties that seem to account for the psychoactive/hallucinogenic effects of Spice and similar herbal blends.

“Spice is sold as a legal substitute for cannabis and our study has identified a number of websites offering both information and purchase opportunities,” said Professor Fabrizio. “Our concern is that very little is known about both human metabolism and toxicity of these compounds. We plan to use this study, the first multilingual review of Spice, to raise awareness among health professionals that the World Wide Web is a new resource for the drug and therefore more information is needed about its effects.”

This study is part of a wider web mapping programme, the Psychonaut Web Mapping project, involving a European group of researchers based in seven European countries (UK, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain: see http://www.psychonautproject.eu).

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