Here today, gone tomorrow…and back again? A review of herbal marijuana alternatives (K2, Spice), synthetic cathinones (bath salts), kratom, Salvia divinorum, methoxetamine, and piperazines

J Med Toxicol. 2012 Mar;8(1):15-32. doi: 10.1007/s13181-011-0202-2.


Despite their widespread Internet availability and use, many of the new drugs of abuse remain unfamiliar to health care providers. The herbal marijuana alternatives, like K2 or Spice, are a group of herbal blends that contain a mixture of plant matter in addition to chemical grade synthetic cannabinoids. The synthetic cathinones, commonly called "bath salts," have resulted in nationwide emergency department visits for severe agitation, sympathomimetic toxicity, and death. Kratom, a plant product derived from Mitragyna speciosa Korth, has opioid-like effects, and has been used for the treatment of chronic pain and amelioration of opioid-withdrawal symptoms. Salvia divinorum is a hallucinogen with unique pharmacology that has therapeutic potential but has been banned in many states due to concerns regarding its psychiatric effects. Methoxetamine has recently become available via the Internet and is marked as "legal ketamine." Moreover, the piperazine derivatives, a class of amphetamine-like compounds that includes BZP and TMFPP, are making a resurgence as "legal Ecstasy." These psychoactives are available via the Internet, frequently legal, and often perceived as safe by the public. Unfortunately, these drugs often have adverse effects, which range from minimal to life-threatening. Health care providers must be familiar with these important new classes of drugs. This paper discusses the background, pharmacology, clinical effects, detection, and management of synthetic cannabinoid, synthetic cathinone, methoxetamine, and piperazine exposures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / analysis
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Alkaloids / therapeutic use
  • Alkaloids / toxicity*
  • Cannabinoids / analysis
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use
  • Cannabinoids / toxicity*
  • Cyclohexanones / analysis
  • Cyclohexanones / pharmacology
  • Cyclohexanones / therapeutic use
  • Cyclohexanones / toxicity*
  • Cyclohexylamines / analysis
  • Cyclohexylamines / pharmacology
  • Cyclohexylamines / therapeutic use
  • Cyclohexylamines / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Mitragyna / toxicity*
  • Piperazines / analysis
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Piperazines / toxicity*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / analysis
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Psychotropic Drugs / toxicity*
  • Salvia / toxicity*


  • Alkaloids
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cyclohexanones
  • Cyclohexylamines
  • Piperazines
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • cathinone
  • 2-(3-methoxyphenyl)-2-(ethylamino)cyclohexanone