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What are Zombie vapes? Five children hospitalised after smoking e-cigs laced with Spice

Spice is more potent and intense than natural cannabis, with prolonged symptoms (AFP/Getty Images)
Spice is more potent and intense than natural cannabis, with prolonged symptoms (AFP/Getty Images)

Five children in south London have been hospitalised after smoking vapes containing synthetic cannabinoids also known as Spice.

One of the children has been put in an induced coma, according to The Mirror. The teens from Eltham, south-east London, were said to have used a rechargeable vape pen called Vaporesso which contained Spice. 

Last month, two children in Merton were also left unwell after using a vape laced with Spice, The Mirror reported.

In a statement last week, The Welsh Emerging Drugs and Identification of Novel Substances service (WEDINOS) warned that people buying e-cigarettes laced with Spice may have thought they contained cannabis oils or liquids.

They revealed that almost a third of the 196 samples of liquids submitted to them in 2023 contained a class of chemicals which Spice belongs to.

It comes as the UK government confirmed the ban on disposable vapes last month to tackle the rise of young people vaping.  

What are zombie vapes?

Spiced-laced vapes have been referred to as zombie vapes because of their severe adverse effects.  Zombie vapes are regular e-cigarettes containing liquid mixed with synthetic cannabinoid receptors, also known as Spice.

What is Spice?

Spice is a synthetic, laboratory-made chemical designed to mimic the effects of cannabis. However, it is more harmful and unpredictable than natural cannabis and has been known to leave users in a “zombie-like state”.

The drug is more potent and intense, with prolonged symptoms. According to the NHS, the side effects of synthetic cannabis are

  • inability to move

  • dizziness

  • breathing difficulties

  • chest pain

  • heart palpitations

  • seizures

  • extreme anxiety

  • paranoia

  • suicidal thoughts

  • psychosis

  • gastrointestinal issues – like vomiting or diarrhoea

  • acute kidney injury

How are zombie vapes different from other vapes?

These vapes are different from ordinary ones because of their ingredients. While regular vapes typically contain nicotine with different flavourings, zombie drug vapes are laced with synthetic marijuana.

What cases have there been involving these vapes?

Incidents involving Spice-laced vapes have been reported in various locations across the UK, including Manchester, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, and Wales.

Last year, dozens of vapes were confiscated from students in Middlesbrough, after several children began collapsing after using them. A number of the seized vapes were sent off for testing for class B substances like Spice.

There have been reports of Snapchat dealers advertising these Spice-laced vapes online, according to Vice.