By Alison Stanton

You may have heard some kids talking about K2 at school, or maybe one of your friends said she wants to try it. Either way, you probably have some questions about K2—for example, what it is, how it can affect your body and if you should be worried about your friend who expressed interest in it.

What is K2?

K2 goes by a lot of other names, including Spice, Bliss, Fake Weed, Kronic and Scooby Snax. It is also referred to as “synthetic marijuana.” As the DEA notes (1), K2 is a synthetic version of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It’s basically a mixture of plant materials that have been sprayed with synthetic mind-altering chemicals.

How is K2 used?

The most common way that people use K2 is to roll the dried plant material into a “joint”, or to put it into a pipe and then smoke it. It can also be found in a liquid form that can be put into an e-cigarette, and some people have brewed tea from the plant mixture.

So is K2 basically the same as pot?

As WebMD notes (2), while K2 is often called synthetic marijuana or Fake Weed, one is nothing like the other. Marijuana/pot is a plant that is grown for both recreational and medical use, but K2 is a plant material that has been sprayed with drugs that are not chemically related to THC. While both the real THC and the fake stuff that is part of K2 will bind to the same places in the brain, the K2 chemicals will bind way more strongly and will create a more intense effect—in fact, CNN notes (3) that K2 can be up to 50-100 times more potent than THC.

What’s in K2? Who knows?

Because there are literally hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids, no one really knows what is in each batch/brand of K2. Some versions might have one chemical sprayed on them while others might have a mixture. If you have ever seen a package of K2, it can look pretty slick and colorful, but since the drugs are illegal to make and sell, there are no rules or regulations about what goes in them, so people who try it really don’t know what they are putting into their bodies and brains.

So is K2 safe? Not at all

K2 does create a similar sensation in the body as real marijuana—this includes a feeling of relaxation, happiness and an increased awareness of the people and things. K2 can also cause a lot of really scary and serious side effects including a racing heart, anxiety, paranoia, chest pain, vomiting, and/or hallucinations.

K2 is definitely not something you want to mess with; if your friend brings it up again, you might want to tell him/her what you’ve learned in this article, or talk about your concerns with a trusted adult.