Russias Love for Spice: Symptomatic of Legal High Issue

By some accounts, Government policy makers are not taking the threat of legal highs, also known as the psychoactive substances (NPS), seriously enough. If that is true, we can probably make the case that the public does not see the threat either. So perhaps we need to step back and look at another country that is not so close to home. Russia provides a perfect example.

Drug users in Russia have fallen in love with a cannabis substitute known as Spice. This product is an herbal concoction mixed with certain chemicals to create a flaky powder that can be smoked. The Russian market is said to be fuelled mainly by Chinese manufacturers, though there is growing evidence that there are substantial numbers of Russian producers as well. Moreover, just as with here in the UK, getting around the law in Russia is very easy.

Spice does not qualify as one of the classified drugs already outlawed by Russian law. It is a synthesized product that mimics the effects of other addictive drugs, but with a formula distinct enough to avoid current jurisdiction. What’s more, chemists can change the formula within hours of the Russian government outlawing the current formula.

Bad Conditions Getting Worse

Russian officials say that the already bad Spice problem has become considerably worse over time. They claim no fewer than 25 deaths and 700 hospital visits in recent weeks, including a young woman who died last month while four of her friends went to the hospital after smoking the drug.

Not only is Spice dangerous, it is highly addictive. According to one addict profiled by The Guardian, addiction to Spice is so gradual and subtle that she did not realise the extent of her own problem until a frightening episode that almost led her to kill her children and commit suicide. Thankfully, she says, her husband stopped her. Nonetheless, she now knows she is hooked on the drug and without hope unless someone intervenes.

The most alarming part of this woman’s story is the one aspect that absolutely cannot be ignored: she started using Spice because someone told her it was as harmless as hash. As recovering heroin addicts, she and her husband were both ready to believe Spice offered them the opportunity to get high with impunity – without leading to addiction and its consequences. They were both wrong.

Things are no different here in the UK. Proponents of legal highs continually put forth the myth that these new psychoactive substances are harmless and non-addictive. However, it is simply not true. Any psychoactive substance, regardless of the intensity of its effects, has the potential to lead to addiction. If it is true of something as seemingly benign as caffeine, it is also true of these new legal high products now being sold as bath salts or plant food.

Time to Take It Seriously

We can continue to debate the merits of the war on drugs compared to treating drug abuse and addiction as a disease. However, even as that debate rages, we need to start taking seriously the threat of legal highs. What is happening in Russia is not unique to that country. It is spreading across Europe, Asia, North America, and the rest of the developed world. Putting our heads in the sand hoping that the problem goes away will only make matters worse.

Addiction Helper hopes you understand how dangerous and addictive legal highs substances are. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information, or to get help with a drug or alcohol problem you are currently struggling with.


  1. The Guardian 
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