The Spice of Death: Sudden Cardiac Arrest After Novel Psychoactive Substance Exposure

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2022 Jan 1;38(1):e63-e64. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002316.


Novel psychoactive substances (NPSs), commonly referred to as "K2" or "spice," are a relatively new toxicology challenge for pediatricians. Adolescents often incorrectly believe that these drugs are safe and can be used without major adverse effects. Although recent legislation attempts to ensure that these drugs are not commercially available, many are able to be purchased online as "not fit for human consumption" or under various misnomers such "incense." In addition, there is a wide chemical variation among these substances, making regulation challenging. Standard urine drug screens test for tetrahydrocannabinol, which may not cross-react with synthetic substances, making NPS poisonings difficult to diagnose. We report a case of fatal cardiac arrest in a 16-year-old adolescent boy temporally associated with use of the NPS, 5F-ADB. The case illustrates the dangerous consequences that these unregulated substances pose to users, as well as the need for the consideration of comprehensive toxicological testing in patients with a history of substance use and sudden cardiac arrest, despite a negative drug screen.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Heart Arrest*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychotropic Drugs / poisoning
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / diagnosis


  • Psychotropic Drugs