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Writing a Spice Scene? Learn the Difference Between Kush, Kush, and Kush

Ok. Be honest. Some of you are reading this because you thought my post was about writing a scene with, you know, “spice.” I suppose it could be, if the characters smoke Spice and then things get, well…spicy.

But today I’m talking about scenes involving Spice, the drug. More specifically, I’m hoping to help you avoid penning errors that could hurt your credibility as an writer.

Foile wrapped packages of Spice with brightly colored labels of neon green or red with the label K2.

The other kind of ‘spice’ scene

In about 2008, Spice (also called K2) became popular as an alternative to marijuana. Chemicals designed to mimic the effects of THC (the substance in marijuana that causes a high) were sprinkled onto plant materials to smoke. But since the chemicals weren’t illegal, this synthetic ‘legal marijuana,’ as it was dubbed, could be purchased in drug paraphernelia shops and even convenience stores. The high from Spice, though, was usually much more intense than marijuana.

Over time, the chemicals in Spice have changed, with an ever widening array of dangerous, mind altering (and sometimes deadly) chemicals blended into the product. Now the high from Spice has very little in common with a THC high.

What’s in a name? Everything.

As a writer, you’re likely to research Spice before you craft your scene. You’ll want to know what it looks like, how it’s used, and probably how your characters will talk about the drug. Online you’ll learn that one slang name for Spice is ‘kush.’

If you expand your research with the phrase “what is kush?” you may find:

  • Kush is a highly potent strain of THC that offers relaxing highs

Or, depending on the news cycle and the artificial intelligence (AI) generator, your search may retrieve any (or all) of the following facts:

  • Kush is a mix of chemicals, sprinkled on ground leaves and smoked
  • Kush is incredibly addictive and contains cannabis, opioids (including fentanyl and tramadol), formaldehyde, and (possibly) ground bones
  • It causes a rapid high, pounding headache, swollen ankles, organ failure, and death
  • Kush creates a high similar to the THC found in marijuana
  • It causes frightening hallucinations and violent behavior


So, is kush really Spice or a type of marijuana? Does it contain fentanyl? Will kush give my character a marijuana-like high? Violent behavior? Or will it kill him?

The answer is yes…and no.

The problem is that kush is a nickname for no less than three abused drugs. All three have some similarities- they are leafy substances often rolled into a cigarette-like paper then smoked. But they’re all incredibly different, some with devastating (or deadly) effects.

So, while all the facts above are true, the online search jumbled together information about three distinctly different kinds of kush. Without knowing that, you risk writing a Spice scene that’s blatantly wrong.

Sorting Out Kush

Here are a few key facts to know about the various drugs called kush:

Marijuana kush

  • Originally, kush referred to a marijuana specifically from the Hindu Kush mountain range region. This potent marijuana was touted for it’s strong calming effects and remains popular even today. Like other kinds of Cannabis, kush offers euphoria, sleepiness, and hunger. It can also result in paranoia. Over time, the term kush became common slang for any kind of marijuana.

Spice kush

  • As mentioned, Spice began as a synthetic marijuana, with chemicals sprayed onto leafy substances to smoke (as a cigarette or in a pipe device). However, since the chemicals were not illegal, Spice was marketed as a ‘legal’ marijuana. It was also popular because it wasn’t detectable on THC drug screens.
  • Stories around 2008 may involve your character getting a marijuana-like high, only a much more intense one than expected. However, with the ever changing chemical content, you have a lot of creative license to let your character have a really bad day. Instead of his relaxing high, he could experience frightening hallucinations, seizures, or panic attacks. And with fentanyl tainting a variety of street drugs in the last few years, your character could smoke Spice but unexpectedly die of a fentanyl overdose.
  • In 2008 could purchase Spice in a drug paraphernelia shops labeled as Spice or K2. But laws have since changed making the chemicals in ‘Spice’ illegal. More contemporary characters will still shop in paraphernalia stores (or online), but Spice will now be in pouches labeled ‘not for human consumption’ and have flashy names like White Blaze and Brain Freeze.

The 3rd kush

  • This drug has taken the risks associated with either kind of kush to a signifcantly higher and potentially lethal level. Currently found in Sierra Leone, this kush is a combination of unknown chemicals, formaldehyde, Cannabis, and opiates (often fentanyl). It’s use has surged in popularity among young men as an escape from their difficult lives, filled with extreme poverty, lack of job opportunities, and pervasive feelings of hopelessness. Men who begin kush rapidly become addicted, using any money they find to purchase more. Kush gives a rapid high, often with severe head pounding followed by a loss of consciousness. You can read more about this devastating drug trend here and here.

Verify Resources

Kush isn’t the only example of slang used for multiple drugs. Recently, the term zombie drug has been used to refer to xylazine, an animal tranquilizer increasingly mixed into street drugs. Zombie drug is also slang for a dangerous psychoactive synthetic drug called bath salts.

As you can see, it’s important to verify your resources to create accurate scenes. Online searches are easy to access, but they can also be incomplete, incorrect, or misleading. For illicit drug-related scenes, good resources to use include:

Putting It All Together

Hopefully, this discussion has made you more confident to write a Spice scene. You should also be better equipped to find reliable drug-related information to support your writing.

Cover of The Grim Reader by Miffie Seideman

Want More?

For more information and sample scenarios for using Spice, marijuana, fentanyl, and many other abused prescription and illicit drugs in your next plot twist, check out The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist’s Guide to Putting Your Character in Peril.

Happy Writing!

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