K2/Spice addiction and abuse
Table of contents
What is K-2 spice?
K-2 Spice, often referred to as “synthetic cannabinoids,” “synthetic marijuana,” or “fake weed“ is a type of drug made to simulate the effects of marijuana. However, because it’s chemical composition may contain chemicals which are harmful, and sometimes deadly, its effects may be very different from marijuana, and frequently more intense and addictive.
Synthetic cannabinoids are a member of the new psychoactive substances (NPS) group of drugs. They are unregulated psychoactive drugs with the goal of emulating the effects of illegal drugs.
What’s it made of?
Spice is made partly from dried and shredded plants or herbs and partly from synthetic chemicals. In some cases, herbs sprayed with at least one designer chemical from the cannabinoid family. One of the significant challenges with the drug is that there is not one compound or mixture that is K2, Spice, or any other of its various names. There are innumerable variations and formulas making it challenging to not only identify but also treat. Spice is highly variable, and you may never be entirely clear on what is in the compound you are taking, making it potentially dangerous or toxic.
Synthetic cannabinoids often contain the words “not for human consumption” on their labeling although that is what the manufacturer precisely intends. Label also often use the word “natural” to describe their product. While the plant or herbal material is in fact natural, nothing else is. The mind-altering chemicals that are sprayed onto or are saturated into the natural material have been proven to be synthetic, and not at all natural.
Clinical language commonly uses the terms synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic marijuana to refer to Spice, but those names aren’t used by those buying, selling, or using the drug. K2 Spice and synthetic marijuana blends are marketed under a wide variety street names including:
- Black Mamba
- Bombay Blue
- Fake Weed
- Legal Cannabis
- Mary Mack
- Moon Rocks
- Red X dawn
- Solar flare
- Yucatan fire
Spice continues to evolve, and 51 new synthetic cannabinoids were recognized in 2012, with more popping up every day, as reported by the Office of the National Drug Control Policy.
Use and abuse
K2/Spice is often sold in attention grabbing packaging and sold under a variety of catchy names. It may be passed off as “natural” or disguised as incense. Like marijuana, Spice is typically smoked and thought to give users feelings that mimic THC’s mind-altering effects on the brain and body. However, it may also be smoked as vape from an e-cigarette, burned as incense, or brewed as tea. Abuse of K2 is often extreme because of the intensity of it’s effects. Users find tolerance builds up and more is needed to get the same high.
K2/Spice and other forms of synthetic marijuana seem to be most popular among high school students, particularly males, as many may be under the false impression that it is less dangerous to use and more “natural” than other drugs. Up until March of 2011, users could buy synthetic marijuana easily over the counter. The Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) of 2011 reported that 11.4 percent of 12th graders had used synthetic marijuana that year, making synthetic marijuana the second most abused illicit drug by 12th graders behind only marijuana itself.
These statistics are troubling, but to be clear, use of K2/Spice (or any of it’s other varying names) is also used by adults.
What are the risks of K2/spice abuse?
Deaths from K2 tripled in 2015. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) caught on to the dangers of Spice and synthetic marijuana abuse, and in 2011, several of the chemicals used to make these drugs were temporarily classified as Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), meaning that they are now illegal to buy, sell, and possess. Of course, illegal manufacturers, many in China and other countries, found ways around this and created new synthetic chemicals that were not as heavily regulated. In 2012, President Obama enacted the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act into law, which permanently classified most of the synthetic chemicals used to make Spice into Schedule I controlled substances. Forty-three states have followed suit, attempting to control these synthetic substances at the state level.
While there isn’t much scientific research on how Spice and other synthetic cannabinoids affect the brain exactly, Spice is thought to act on the same receptors that the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC, interacts with, creating feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and distorted perceptions. Spice can be extremely unpredictable, however, and users may experience vivid hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety instead. Potency levels may be hard to measure as each compound is different, and each person’s genetic makeup, drug history, and amount and method of abuse may change the drug’s effects from person to person or even use to use.
Recent research seems to indicate the synthetic marijuana may be a full agonist as opposed to a partial agonist like THC, meaning that it fills the entire CB1 receptor in the brain, creating stronger and more intense reactions. Additionally, Forbes reports that synthetic marijuana may be over 100 times more potent than THC, meaning even low amounts of the drug may result in toxic levels in the body.
Spice abuse was related to 11,406 emergency department visits in 2010, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It has been potentially linked to at least three overdose fatalities in Colorado, which are still under investigation, as published by CNN. Several other overdose fatalities are thought to be related to Spice, although the deaths of these teenagers may as of yet be officially undetermined, according to the New York Daily News and Today.
How addictive is K2 spice?
Chronic abusers of K2/Spice may become addicted both physically and psychologically to the drug and its effects. Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior, tolerance to the drug, and withdrawal symptoms when the drug is removed. Someone who spends most of their time determining how to obtain Spice, using it, or recovering from its effects is likely addicted.
Reward pathways in the brain are altered with substance abuse, making chronic users feel the need to continue to use in order to feel normal. A tolerance develops in chronic abusers, wherein more of the substance is needed each time in order to get “high.” Increasing dosage can have dangerous consequences as it not only raises the risks of suffering from an overdose, but it also increases the odds of developing a dependence on the drug. The brain will begin to rely on Spice and becomes dependent on its presence.
Signs of a spice abuse and addiction
The short-term effects of K2/Spice use include, but are not limited to:
- Dry Mouth
- Heart attack
- Increased Anxiety
- Kidney Damage
- Loss of Control
- Permanent Brain Damage
- Psychotic Episodes
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Red Eyes
- Sweating Heavily
Which signs of K2/Spice use are observed varies greatly. Reasons for the variance include the chemistry of the individual as well as the chemistry of the synthetic cannabinoid they have taken. As use becomes more frequent the number of side effects a user exhibits increases, as does the most frequency of the most serious side effects. Psychotic episodes and hallucinations are pronounced in frequent users. Habitual users are also at risk of coma. The long-term effects of K2/Spice abuse are unknown.
Drug cravings are both physical and emotional in nature, and withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable. K2/Spice withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, headache, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, sweating, psychotic episodes, depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of motivation, and disinterest in consequences from continued abuse of synthetic cannabinoids.
While the thought of the pain of withdrawal may seem unfathomable, the effects of synthetic cannabinoids are far more dangerous.
Long term side effects
The long-term effects of K2 Spice use are unknown.
Treatment and therapy options
If you, or someone you love, have tried to stop using K2/Spice unsuccessfully, or its use interferes with daily life, it may be time to seek professional assistance. Withdrawal symptoms can be managed with medications during medical detox, which is undergone in a safe and secure environment with 24-hour medical care available. Physical stabilization is the first goal in substance abuse treatment, and specialized facilities can make this process much smoother.
Once physically stable, the emotional components involved in addiction can be identified and resolved. Addiction is a brain disease requiring specialized care much in the way other diseases do. Determining what led to the initial abuse of Spice is a great starting point in learning how to cope and manage these stressors or life events in the future. Psychotherapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, raise self-esteem and help to turn negative thought processes into more positive ones.
The Recovery Village provides a full continuum of care, offering different levels of treatment to promote a successful recovery. All aspects of mind, body, and soul are explored as balance is restored to each patient’s life.
Getting help for K2 spice addiction
At The Recovery Village, we’re dedicated to helping you overcome Spice addiction, not just so you can lead a drug-free life, but so you can create the life you really want. Contact an admissions coordinator for a detailed and free assessment. We are here 24/7 to take your call.