K2 / Spice Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment

spice and k2

What Is K2/Spice?

K2 or Spice is synthetic marijuana that consists of a plant material mixture that is sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids, similar to THC. The chemical makeup of synthetic cannabinoids is often very inconsistent and can cause severe side effects as a result.

Although synthetic weed (or fake weed) is often marketed as being a safe and legal alternative to illegal marijuana, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that their effects may be much more powerful, unpredictable, and even life-threatening in some cases.

There is limited research on the effects of synthetic weed on the brain, but researchers do know that synthetic cannabinoids do create a stronger effect than marijuana and users could be at increased risk as a result. In fact, the DEA banned 18 different synthetic compounds used in K2 or Spice because they have no medical benefit and are very likely to be abused.

Synthetic weed often looks like potpourri and consists of dried plant materials. Oftentimes the drug will be packaged in foil packages marketed as “incense” or “fake weed” or packaged in liquid form in a plastic bottle. K2 and Spice are two common brand names, but today hundreds of other brand names exist, including Kronic, Black Mamba, and Kush, among many others.

To use K2 or Spice, most people smoke it in joints, pipes, or prepare it in an herbal tea. Some users may also mix it with marijuana or purchase a liquid form of it and smoke it with e-cigarettes.

Is K2/Spice Addictive?

Yes, K2/spice can be physically and psychologically addictive. Marijuana is often touted as being non-addictive, but synthetic weed’s mind-altering properties can lead to harmful behaviors, like uncontrollable or dangerous misuse of it with other substances. Even though it can be purchased legally, synthetic marijuana is just as dangerous as many other addictive drugs and can cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction if it is chronically abused.

Many of the packets containing the drug are labeled “Not for Human Consumption”, and claim to have “natural” material. However, the only parts of these products that are natural are the dried planet materials. The chemicals that are sprayed onto the drug are made in laboratories. Easy access and the belief that synthetic cannabinoid products are “natural” and therefore harmless have likely contributed to their use among young people. Another reason for their use is that standard drug tests cannot easily detect many of the chemicals used in these products.

Where Is Synthetic Marijuana Sold?

For many years’ synthetic pot could easily be purchased in drug paraphernalia stores, gas stations, and through the internet. Authorities deemed the chemicals to have no medical benefit and had a high potential for abuse so they banned the sale and possession of these chemicals. Many were packaged with catchy names like Black Mamba and Kush. Two of the most notorious products were K2 and Spice. However, manufacturers try to sidestep these laws by changing the chemical formulas in their mixtures. Creating new, even more powerful synthetic drugs.

Street Names or Slang for Synthetic Marijuana

The following terms are slang for synthetic marijuana:

  • K2
  • Black Mamba
  • Legal Weed
  • Genie
  • Scooby Snax
  • Bliss
  • Blaze

How Common Is Synthetic Marijuana Abuse?

Spice is the second most commonly abused illegal drug among high schoolers, with the most common being marijuana. According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey, 11 percent of American high school seniors used synthetic weed during the past year. In addition, 11,406 emergency room visits in 2010 were associated with synthetic marijuana, 75 percent of which were among adolescents and young adults ages 12-29. The majority of these ER visits involved males (77.5 percent).

Synthetic marijuana doesn’t show up on most drug tests, making it an attractive option for those seeking to use drugs without getting caught. Spice products also tend to be popular among young people who have a misperception that the drug is natural and therefore harmless.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Labels on Spice products often claim that they contain “natural” psycho-active material taken from a variety of plants. Spice products do contain dried plant material, but chemical analyses show that their active ingredients are synthetic (or designer) cannabinoid compounds.” And while many of the most commonly used chemicals in Spice have been made illegal, manufacturers of Spice products have begun substituting different chemicals into their mixtures in order to continue to evade authorities.

With the constantly changing list of chemicals being used in Spice, there is no way for an individual to know exactly what the product contains or what the long term effects might be. It also believed that some Spice mixtures contain harmful heavy metal residues.

Many people who abuse K2/Spice may not realize how harmful it is because the packaging can be very misleading. But under federal law, it is illegal to buy, sell, distribute, and possess synthetic marijuana.

What Are the Side Effects of Synthetic Marijuana Abuse?

Since the chemical makeup of synthetic cannabinoids used to manufacture K2 and Spice (among other brands of synthetic marijuana) is not always known, the physical effects of these drugs can be very unpredictable and dangerous. These products are likely to contain substances that cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect.

The chemicals in the synthetic pot act on the same brain cell receptors as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Some researches believe that the chemicals bind more strongly than marijuana does, which produces a stronger effect.

Immediate K2 side effects may include:

  • Elevated mood
  • Relaxation
  • Altered perception
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts
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Long-term effects of K2/Spice abuse may include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Paralysis
  • Respiratory problems
  • Kidney damage
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

K2 claims to offer an experience similar to marijuana, however, according to the NIDA, “Some users report psychotic effects like extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.” Additionally, some Spice users have experienced withdrawal symptoms and addiction.

Spice, K2, or “synthetic marijuana” is a dangerous substance. Despite its labeling, it is not natural but instead, is a chemical cocktail sprayed onto plant materials with the sole purpose of creating intoxication. There is no way to know what dangerous chemicals may be entering the body when consuming Spice or to predict the long-term health effects of use.

What Are Common Symptoms of K2/Spice Addiction?

Just like with any other powerful drug, individuals may become addicted to synthetic marijuana. Although anyone may become addicted, there are certain risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted to synthetic marijuana.

Common risk factors that may contribute to the development of K2/spice addiction include:

  • Abuse or neglect during childhood
  • Experiencing some other type of trauma
  • Personal history of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Being male (statistics show synthetic marijuana abuse is more common among males)
  • Being young (statistics show synthetic marijuana abuse is more common among youth)

If an individual is addicted to K2/Spice, he or she may display some or all of the following signs:

  1. Being unable to stop K2 or Spice use despite its negative physical, psychological, and social effects.
  2. Having withdrawal symptoms when all use of synthetic marijuana is stopped.
  3. Developing a tolerance (needing more synthetic marijuana to achieve the same effects).
  4. Having strong cravings for synthetic marijuana.
  5. Using synthetic marijuana in dangerous or life-threatening situations.

K2/Spice Withdrawal Symptoms and Detox

Detox is a very important part of recovery from K2 or Spice addiction. Before a person can overcome their addiction to synthetic marijuana, they must first achieve a state of sobriety. Synthetic marijuana withdrawal can be very difficult, as the physical effects of spice withdrawal are often very uncomfortable.

Common symptoms of K2/spice withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Palpitation
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Intense cravings
  • Anxiety

A medically assisted K2/spice detox program can help individuals who are detoxing from synthetic marijuana manage their uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms so they can achieve a stable and sober state.

Medically assisted K2/spice detox also incorporates individual and group therapy to address the psychological effects of withdrawal and helps prepare clients for entry into a long-term treatment program that utilizes behavioral therapy to combat addiction.

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K2/Spice Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for K2 or Spice withdrawal will vary based on a number of factors, including:

  • What type of synthetic cannabinoid was used
  • The method of use
  • The frequency and dose of each use
  • Co-occurring alcohol and drug addictions
  • Co-occurring mental disorders

There is limited research on K2/spice detox, but researchers do know that withdrawal symptoms may begin as quickly as 15 minutes after the last dose. In some cases, people may not experience withdrawal symptoms for 1-3 days after the last dose.

K2/spice withdrawal is a very individualized process and therefore, detox should always take place in a medically monitored environment.

Long-Term Rehab for K2/Spice Addiction

After K2/spice detox, many individuals choose to continue their addiction treatment with an inpatient or outpatient drug and alcohol rehab program. According to the NIDA, long-term treatment of 90 days or longer is associated with more positive treatment outcomes, so a 30 or 60-day program is less likely to result in long-term or lifelong sobriety.

If someone is severely addicted, a synthetic marijuana addiction treatment program can help. An inpatient K2/spice rehab center provides a comfortable, safe, and supportive environment in which individuals can remain sober while gaining the tools and skills they need to live sober on their own.

People in K2/spice rehab work with clinical counselors and other addiction treatment professionals to develop and practice effective coping strategies to prevent future relapse and to learn how to cope with the stressors of everyday life without resorting to using synthetic marijuana. K2/spice treatment programs consist of individual and group therapy, specialized behavioral therapy interventions, and evidence-based therapies such as 12-step facilitation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, among many others.

Although long-term inpatient rehab programs take place in a home-like setting, outpatient K2/spice rehab programs consist of a series of group meetings facilitated by a licensed counselor. Groups meet in a safe, clinical setting several times a week.

The cost of a K2/spice treatment program will vary based on the type of program, the method of payment, and the duration of treatment.

Continued Care Options for K2/Spice Addiction Treatment

Sober Living

After a client has completed K2/spice detox and a rehab program for K2 or Spice addiction, he or she may choose to continue their treatment plan by enrolling in a sober living program. Sober living homes are designed to help clients transition from a life of addiction to a life of sobriety by providing peer support, accountability, and a substance-free living environment after they’ve completed synthetic marijuana rehab.

Transitional housing programs can also be combined with additional synthetic marijuana recovery support services such as employment and education assistance, personal monitoring, and peer-led sobriety programming. A client may also choose to enroll in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) while living in a transitional home for additional support.

Sober living homes provide a fantastic opportunity for individuals in recovery from synthetic marijuana addiction to learn how to live responsibly and be accountable for their own actions. This is achieved by paying their own rent, preparing their own meals, adhering to the rules of their sober living community, and building healthy relationships with like-minded peers in recovery. All of these things will help them maintain their sobriety for years to come.

The cost of sober living programs will vary based on the type of living situation offered, support services, and location. Sober living program payment is collected on a monthly basis, like rent would be.

Aftercare Programs

Aftercare programs are specifically designed for alumni who have already completed a drug and alcohol rehab program and would like continued support in their sobriety. Aftercare groups meet once a week in an outpatient setting and meetings serve as a sobriety check-in for continued accountability.

If you are a spice addict, help is available. K2 withdrawal symptoms don’t have to keep you from achieving a sustainable lifestyle of sobriety. Call Nova Recovery Center today to learn more about your K2/spice treatment options and start working toward a better, sober life today.

Nova Recovery Center offers a large range of substance abuse treatment services: detox, residential, outpatient and sober living.

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